Toby Young

Only 1.6% of Schoolchildren Forced to Self-Isolate For 10 Days Went on to Develop Covid

A new study by a team of researchers at Oxford has found that of the one million schoolchildren sent home and forced to self-isolate for 10 days every week last term, 98.4% did not go on to develop Covid. The Telegraph has more.

Forcing hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren to self-isolate because a classmate had Covid was unnecessary as daily testing would have been as effective, an official study suggests.

The results of the study, by the University of Oxford, emerged on the last day of term for most schools, when more than one million pupils are off because of the virus and after months of disruption to education. …

The team behind the study said the results also offered reassurance for policymakers trying to end the pingdemic because they showed that the virus could be controlled in a less “destructive” way.

It came as the latest figures revealed that up to one million people a week are being asked to isolate in England and Wales, with record numbers being pinged by the NHS app.

The Oxford study found that 98.4 per cent of children who were sent home for 10 days never went on to develop Covid – a result set to anger parents and pupils forced to stay at home needlessly.

Worth reading in full.

For those that can’t get past the Telegraph‘s paywall, BBC News also has the story.

This study complements numerous other studies – such as this one in Sweden – showing that very, very few people are infected with COVID-19 in schools, whether children or staff, and that school closures were completely unnecessary. Bizarrely, the BBC quotes the lead author of the Oxford study describing his findings as “good news” since it means sending a million schoolchildren home every week just in case they have Covid can now be replaced by daily testing, with only those who test positive being sent home. But, of course, it isn’t “news” since we’ve know how pointless the quarantining of healthy schoolchildren is for at least a year. And I suspect parents of school-age children (like me) won’t regard this news as “good”, so much as confirmation of their worst fears, namely, that their children’s sacrifice over the past 16 months has been for nought.

Why is This Government so Wedded to the Ruinously Expensive and Completely Useless Test and Trace Programme?

There follows a guest post by David McGrogan, an Associate Professor of Law at Northumbria Law School.

With the so-called ‘pingdemic’ well underway, and showing no sign of abating, the question naturally arises: why are our politicians obsessed with finding technological ways out of the pandemic? What possessed them to imagine that ‘Test and Trace’ could ever be successful?

The proximate cause appears to have been an unholy alliance between Matt Hancock and Dominic Cummings, who looked at what had happened in South Korea and Taiwan and came to the bizarre conclusion that what had apparently worked there – in societies and circumstances totally unlike ours – could just be transplanted here and deployed as effectively. Whether this should be more properly be described as hubris or stupidity is a question I will leave to the reader to decide.

The problem, though, has much deeper roots. The Hungarian-French thinker, Anthony de Jasay, once made the observation (which, like all great observations, is deceptively simple) that there is a natural bias among politicians towards doing things. It takes a very special kind of person to get elected to national office and then resist using the power available to them. In fact, such a person may not exist at all – it is impossible to identify a leader even remotely resembling that type on either side of the Atlantic since, perhaps, Calvin Coolidge in the 1920s. Why do people decide to become politicians, after all? Because they want to do things.

The idea, then, that Boris and his Cabinet would have been able to simply sit there, apparently passively, while the virus ‘let rip’, was pretty implausible once the Chinese and Italians had gone into lockdown. The urge to do things would have been overwhelming. And it remains to this day. Letting the immune systems and common sense of the public take care of matters is anathema to our leaders, because it doesn’t involve them taking bold action or, indeed, doing anything much at all. This goes against the grain of their very psyches: in their own minds, they envisage themselves ‘winning’ in the war against Covid through their brilliant decision-making and uber-competence, and being hoisted onto the shoulders of the grateful populace and paraded through the streets accordingly. They don’t want nature to take the credit which they believe is theirs. In fact, it is pretty clear that they don’t really want the virus to reach natural equilibrium at all – they want to defeat it, preferably through some fabulous scheme.

News Round-Up

How Big a Problem is Scientific Fraud?

Earlier this month the BMJ published a blog post by its former editor Richard Smith entitled: “Time to assume that health research is fraudulent until proven otherwise?” The conclusion was essentially yes. Today we’re publishing an original piece by Mike Hearn looking at fraud and other problems besetting scientific research. Mike was a regular contributor to Lockdown Sceptics and the author of the site’s most read article in its 16-month history. Here is an extract from his latest piece:

It’s been known for years that a lot of claims made by scientists can’t be replicated. In some fields, the majority of all claims appear to not replicate due to a large mix of issues like overly lax thresholds for claiming statistical significance, poor study design and other somewhat subtle errors. But how much research is deliberate falsehood?

The sad truth is the size of the fraud problem is entirely unknown because the institutions of science have absolutely no mechanisms to detect bad behaviour whatsoever. Academia is dominated by (and largely originated) the same ideology calling for the total defunding of the police, so no surprise that they just assume everyone has absolute integrity all the time: research claims are constantly accepted at face value even when obviously nonsensical or fake. Deceptive research sails through peer review, gets published, cited and then incorporated into decision making. There are no rules and it’d be pointless to make any because there’s nobody to enforce them: universities are notorious for solidly defending fraudulent professors.

So let’s turn over the rock and see what crawls out. We’ll start with China and then turn our attention back to more western types of deception.

Mike goes on to describe a phenomenon I wasn’t aware of, namely, the prevalence of fraudulent medical papers by Chinese doctors.

In 2018, the U.S. National Science Foundation announced that: “For the first time, China has overtaken the United States in terms of the total number of science publications.” Should the USA worry about this? Perhaps not. After some bloggers exposed an industrial research-faking operation that had generated at least 600 papers about experiments that never happened, a Chinese doctor reached out to beg for mercy: “Hello teacher, yesterday you disclosed that there were some doctors having fraudulent pictures in their papers. This has raised attention. As one of these doctors, I kindly ask you to please leave us alone as soon as possible… Without papers, you don’t get promotion; without a promotion, you can hardly feed your family… You expose us but there are thousands of other people doing the same. As long as the system remains the same and the rules of the game remain the same, similar acts of faking data are for sure to go on. This time you exposed us, probably costing us our job. For the sake of Chinese doctors as a whole, especially for us young doctors, please be considerate. We really have no choice, please!”

Note the belief that “thousands of other people” are doing the same, and that these doctors need more than one paper to keep being promoted, so the 600 found so far is surely the tip of an iceberg given China’s size. There are about 3.8 million doctors in China implying that there are quite possibly tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of these things in circulation.

Mike is a former Google software engineer and has an excellent blog that you can find here. His piece is very much worth reading in full.

News Round-Up

Poetry Corner

Lockdown Blues
(The W.H. Auden Variant)

by Peter Mills

Turn off the box; don’t fiddle with your phone,
Stop the child from dancing; leave her all alone,
Shut down the night clubs and with muffled clatter,
Bang on pots and kettles to forget the ones who matter.

The jet overhead makes no noise, just vapour,
Writes in the sky as if it were paper,
You’ve lost your freedom; you know they’re lying,
Let the masks cover up what we know; we are dying.

Alpha, then Beta, the Delta, the Plus,
Stay home, work from home, making fools of us,
Unwittingly, gullibly, we all played along,
I thought it couldn’t last forever; I was wrong.

The stages are not wanted now; close down every one,
Pack up the beach and dismantle the sun,
Flush away the beer and do without the food,
For nothing now can come to any good.

Vaccines Not Protecting Over-60s in Scotland From Being Hospitalised with COVID-19

A reader (an academic economist) has analysed the Scottish Covid data and reached a depressing conclusion: Covid vaccination seems to offer the over-60s little protection from severe illness.

Wasn’t busy today so I decided to collect all the Scottish data and do a bit of mining. Many of the datasets are not properly organised and are downloaded from separate parts of the Government website, so I wondered if they were missing something.

Lo and behold, they were – something big. The reason it was hard to track down was because the government does not publish positive test results by age. This is a problem because testing in Scotland – and across the UK – is far higher this summer than it was last year. Lateral flow tests are everywhere now and people upload their results to the Government app. Only neurotics were doing this last year, but now everyone is doing it.

Okay, so I managed to construct a positive test rate for the over-60s. This can then be compared to hospitalisations. If hospitalisations are low relative to the positive test rate in over-60s then we can have some confidence that the vaccines are protecting this group. This means that even if they seem borderline useless at preventing case growth, they would at least be a prophylactic against severe cases of the virus.

But as you can see from the table above, there is no evidence that hospitalisations are lower for the over-60s that are testing positive and so no evidence that the vaccines protect the over-60s from severe illness.

News Round-Up

The Loneliness of Herds

We’re publishing an original piece on the Daily Sceptic today by Dr. Sinéad Murphy, a Research Associate in Philosophy at Newcastle University and a regular Lockdown Sceptics contributor. She starts by teasing out the implications of a new bench on St Thomas Street in Newcastle, which advertises itself as being for people who are “happy to chat”, and from there draws some gloomy conclusions about the gradual elimination of spontaneous, un-signposted social interaction. Here is an extract:

Has the person sitting on the “Happy to chat bench” sat there on purpose to chat and are they completely indiscriminate about whom they chat to? Did they see the sign before they slumped onto the seat? If they are sitting on the section of the bench with the sign posted to it, then they are at least partially obscuring the sign from the view of passers-by. Does that mean they’d prefer not to chat to complete strangers, thank you very much? The difficulties abound.

The irony is that we are much more sure of ourselves in implicit human interactions than we are in explicit centrally-administered interactions.

Things can go wrong, of course, even in the implicit human mode. We can turn to talk to someone and find that they are not in the mood to talk, or cannot speak English, or have earphones in and cannot hear us. But the mortifying effect of these errors in judgment reveals just how rarely they happen.

We are practised at casual human encounters. They arise for us in contexts in which almost everything is already clear. We read their cues without effort, mostly even without knowing that we’re doing it.

By contrast, we are wrong-footed by centrally-administered encounters; the number of directives required for our easy negotiation of them is impossible to generate. And anyway, there is neither room on the back of a bench to post them nor time as you pass it by to read them.

Worth reading in full.

“Get Covid, Live Longer,” Joked Boris (According to Cummings)

Dominic Cummings has given an hour-long interview to the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg, due to be shown tonight on BBC2 at 7pm, in which he provides further evidence that Boris is a stone cold lockdown sceptic. As a bug-eyed lockdown zealot, he thinks this is damning stuff, but to people on our side of the aisle it makes the Prime Minister more sympathetic. MailOnline has more.

In his first broadcast interview, with the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg, the hostile former chief adviser to Mr Johnson accused his one-time boss of putting “his own political interests ahead of people’s lives”.

He also revealed that the Prime Minister also wanted to carry on meeting the Queen in person while Downing Street was rife with Covid, eventually backing down when it was pointed out he could kill her.

Mr Cummings has repeatedly accused the Prime Minister of being too slow in imposing the second lockdown, which came into force on November 5th.

The political adviser, who left Downing Street during a bitter row in November, shared a series of messages from October 15th that appear to be from Mr Johnson to aides.

“I must say I have been slightly rocked by some of the data on covid fatalities. The median age is 82-81 for men 85 for women. That is above life expectancy. So get COVID and live longer. Hardly anyone under 60 goes into hospital (4%) and of those virtually all survive. And I no longer buy all this NHS overwhelmed stuff. Folks I think we may need to recalibrate,” they read.

“There are max 3m in this country aged over 80. It shows we don’t go for nation wide lockdown.”

Worth reading in full.

The reason Cummings thinks this is so politically damaging is because he believes the delay in imposing the second lockdown cost lives. But as we’ve pointed out many times before, there is precious little evidence that lockdowns reduce transmission. And the R number was falling when the second lockdown was imposed, so the autumn wave peaked and fell without the need for a lockdown.