Conor Chaplin

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Today's update on Lockdown Sceptics is here. Includes Peter Hitchens' defence of getting vaccinated, an original paper by a medical entrepreneur on the diminishing Covid mortality risk and Boris's resemblance to a Morlock.

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Arrival of the Brazilian Variant Cristo Redentor, Rio de Janeiro Despite newly toughened entry requirements to the UK, a 'variant of concern' first detected in Brazil has made its way onto our shores, as the BBC reports. Three cases have been detected in England and separately three in Scotland.In England, officials are still trying to track down one of those who tested positive for the new variant.The three Scottish residents had flown to north-east Scotland from Brazil via Paris and London, the Scottish government said.Experts believe this variant (P1) – first detected in travellers to Japan from Manaus in northern Brazil in January – could be more contagious. There are also concerns vaccines may not be as effective against it – but NHS England's Prof Stephen Powis said vaccines could be "rapidly adapted".Dr Susan Hopkins, from Public Health England (PHE), said the UK was more advanced than many other countries in identifying the variants and mutations and therefore able to act quickly. On-again, off-again sceptic Alistair Haimes greeted the news with a tongue-in-cheek Tweet: https://twitter.com/AlistairHaimes/status/1366084335472963584 Advocates of Zero Covid have been having a tricky week too, as the supposedly Covid-free island fortresses of New Zealand and the Isle of Man have hurtled back into various shutdowns and restrictions after, inevitably, finding cases again. The BBC reports on the Manx situation: Nine...

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Today's update on Lockdown Sceptics is here. Includes numerous reasons why schools should re-open, a report that charging people to stay at Quarantine Hotels could be illegal and an original piece by Kathrine Jebson Moore.

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Today's update on Lockdown Sceptics is here. Includes a brilliant response to @cjsnowdon's @quillette article, readers' comments about @NeilDotOBrien's new website and a psychologist's explanation of "Stockholm Syndrome".

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Hancock Refuses to Commit to Opening Up After the Most Vulnerable Have Been Vaccinated Matt Hancock at yesterday's Covid Briefing Health Secretary Matt Hancock led yesterday's Covid press conference from Downing Street and struck a non-committal note regarding any timetable for exit from restrictions. Katy Balls in the Spectator has more. As ministers voice their hope that the country can start to lift restrictions from early March, questions are being asked as to when restrictions can go altogether and normal life resume. Members of the Tory Covid Recovery Group have argued that most restrictions should go as soon as the vulnerable are protected. While officials remain tight-lipped on the issue, Matt Hancock did offer an insight in today's press conference as to the key factors the Government will consider when making that decision. Announcing that over four million people have now been vaccinated in the UK, the Health Secretary urged the public not to blow it as the route out was clear. In the Q&A, he pointed to the factors that will decide when restrictions can go.The first clue came when Josh from Newcastle asked how much it would matter if there were a high surge of cases among young people once the vulnerable were vaccinated. This gets to the crux of the matter: once the most vulnerable are protected (the 20% of the population who account for...

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Welcome to the Hotel... Quarantine The Sunday Times reports that the UK is set to copy countries such as New Zealand and introduce mandatory hotel quarantine for all arrivals into the country, replacing what has hitherto been a requirement only to go home directly and self-isolate there: Ministers have ordered plans to be drawn up for a fresh crackdown at Britain’s borders to stop new variants of the coronavirus undermining the vaccination effort.Officials have been told to prepare for the creation of quarantine hotels for those arriving in Britain and to use GPS and facial-recognition technology to check that people are staying in isolation. This is a significant change in policy and comes as the Government is simultaneously downplaying suggestions that the various mutations of the virus may be resistant to the vaccine when talking about their ongoing roll-out of it to millions of Brits, and, at the same time, using precisely those fears to justify more travel restrictions. Last week officials were ordered to study New Zealand’s policy of “directed isolation”, where everyone arriving is charged for a stay at an airport hotel and forced to remain in isolation for two weeks.In Australia it is between 14 and 24 days, with travellers charged between £1,500 and £2,500. The UK Government is only considering a system where visitors pay the...

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Hancock Sets Out Vaccination Plan Health Secretary Matt Hancock The Government has published its 'UK COVID-19 Vaccines Delivery Plan' and the Health Secretary gave a press conference alongside Professor Stephen Powis on Monday stating that 2.3 million people have been given at least one dose of a vaccine so far and explaining his plan to continue rolling out the biggest mass vaccination programme in history. The BBC reports: The vaccine delivery plan says it is expected to take until spring to give a first dose to all 32 million people in the UK's priority groups, including everyone over 55 and those who are clinically vulnerable.Under the plan, the government has pledged to carry out at least two million vaccinations in England per week by the end of January, which it says will be made possible by rolling out jabs at 206 hospital sites, 50 vaccination centres and around 1,200 local vaccination sites. It also reiterates the government's aim of offering vaccinations to around 15 million people in the UK – the over-70s, older care home residents and staff, frontline healthcare workers and the clinically extremely vulnerable – by mid-February.According to Mr Hancock, two fifths of over-80s have now received their first dose, and almost a quarter of care home residents have received theirs. Ministers have stopped short so far of introducing...

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Border Chaos Continues Peter Schrank's cartoon in yesterday's Times The list of countries restricting or banning travel from the UK today grew to over 40, including much of continental Europe. The international responses to the new 'variant' of the virus range from outright bans to new self-isolation requirements regardless of a negative PCR test (as in the case of Greece). The border closures are not all limited to UK travellers either. Sweden has banned visitors from Denmark as well as the UK, and Saudi Arabia has slammed its borders shut completely. The knee-jerk actions are reminiscent of the early phase of the pandemic, where country after country copied each other's panicky lockdowns. It deals yet another blow to the ailing travel and airline industries, as cancelled flights out of the UK number in the hundreds and climbing. Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a press conference yesterday and scarcely mentioned the unfolding travel bans. Instead, he focused on the ongoing issues at the Dover-Calais crossing, insisting that the blockade would be resolved in a matter of hours after a conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard writes in today's Telegraph, closing the UK-France border is just another exercise in closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. Emmanuel Macron’s ban on lorries entering France wins the prize for the...

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London Threatened with Tier 3 Bob Moran's cartoon in Sunday's Telegraph While the news cycle is dominated by last-minute Brexit negotiations, The Telegraph reports that a "worrying" rise in cases in London may lead to the city being "plunged" into Tier 3 restrictions: The Government must consider placing London in Tier 3 restrictions, scientists have said, after 21 out of the 32 boroughs showed worrying rises in cases.The capital is now the second worst region in the country, just behind the West Midlands, with more than 15,000 people testing positive in the past week, a rate of 169.6 per 100,000 people, up from 150.9 a month ago.It means London is now higher than many of the Tier 3 areas, such as the North East where case rates have halved from 330.2 per 100,000 to 160.4 since the beginning of November. The case rate in the capital is higher than all but five of the current Tier 3 regions with the borough of Haringey seeing rises of 46% since last week, Bromley 40% and Kingston 33%. Those "very worried" include Professor Paul Hunter at the University of East Anglia who said: ...it was “very worrying” that cases had continued to increase during the national lockdown and said a rise from Tier 2 must now be considered.“There were more cases at the end of lockdown...

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