Toby Young

Have 1,200 Experts Ever Been Proved Wrong So Quickly?

Guido Fawkes reminds us today that over 1,200 so-called experts signed ‘the Declaration’ – cooked up by the same people behind the John Snow Memorandum – warning of the terrible effect easing coronavirus restrictions on July 19th would have. The Declaration originally took the form of a letter in the Lancet, published on July 7th, in which 120 self-described ‘scientists’, many of them members of Independent SAGE, described ‘Freedom Day’ as “dangerous and premature”. They cited the SAGE modelling showing there would be 100,000 new Covid cases a day if the Government went ahead with its plans and set out the dire consequences for Britain and the rest of the world. “We believe the Government is embarking on a dangerous and unethical experiment, and we call on it to pause plans to abandon mitigations on July 19th, 2021,” they wrote.

Two weeks on from ‘Freedom Day’, their predictions aren’t holding up terribly well.

According to Public Health England, the number of new daily cases fell to 21,691 today, another five-week low. So the 1,200 signatories of the Declaration exaggerated the number of daily cases that would follow ‘Freedom Day’ by 500%.

The Lancet letter also predicted that hospital admissions would soar as a result of Boris’s recklessness:

The link between cases and hospital admissions has not been broken, and rising case numbers will inevitably lead to increased hospital admissions, applying further pressure at a time when millions of people are waiting for medical procedures and routine care.

Perhaps they should have thought twice before inserting that word “inevitably” because the latest data shows hospital admissions falling. “Another 731 admissions were recorded by officials on July 30th, the latest date available – down 15% on the week before,” reports MailOnline.

And it wasn’t just these 1,200 ‘experts’ who were sounding the alarm. Let’s not forget that Keir Starmer also described Boris’s plan to ease restrictions as “reckless”.

And, of course, our old friend Neil Ferguson said on July 18th that it was “almost inevitable” that daily cases would climb to 100,000 a day if Boris went ahead with the unlocking the following day and added that “the real question” was whether they would reach 200,000 a day or more and warned of a “significant burden on the healthcare system”. Out by 1000% – which is actually pretty modest by Ferguson’s standards.

As Guido Fawkes says: “Guido can’t remember a time 1,200 so-called experts were proven so wrong in one fell swoop…”

Boris’s decision to go ahead with ‘Freedom Day’ is the first time I can think of in the past 16 months when he’s stuck to his guns in the face of wildly apocalyptic claims from various ‘experts’ about the consequences of “letting it rip” (their phrase for giving us our freedoms back). On every previous occasion, because he’s done exactly as these gloomsters have asked, they haven’t been proved wrong. Admittedly, locking down three times hasn’t stopped the U.K. from having one of the worst Covid death tolls in Europe, and Sweden’s excess deaths in 2020 were lower than ours in spite of not locking down. But the crystal ball gazers have always been able to argue that things would have been so much worse if we hadn’t locked down. Yet this time – finally – Boris ignored their doom-mongering and, as a result, they have been proved spectacularly – and humiliatingly – wrong.

Will this experience stiffen Boris’s backbone the next time he’s prevailed upon by the Government’s scientific advisers, sundry public health experts and the chin-wobblers in the Cabinet to lock down again, which really is inevitable? We can but hope.

New York City Introduces Vaccine Passports for Indoor Dining

Bill de Blasio, the Mayor of New York, has announced that later this month only those who’ve been double jabbed will be able to dine inside at restaurants, enter gyms or go to the theatre. The New York Times has more.

New York City will become the first U.S. city to require proof of vaccination for a variety of activities for workers and customers — indoor dining, gyms and performances — to put pressure on people to get vaccinated, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday morning.

The program, similar to mandates issued in France and Italy last month, will start later this month, and after a transition period, enforcement will begin in mid-September, when schools are expected to reopen and more workers could return to offices in Manhattan.

“It’s time for people to see vaccination as literally necessary to living a good and full and healthy life,” Mr. de Blasio said at a news conference.

“Not everyone is going to agree with this, I understand that,” he said. “But for so many people, this is going to be a lifesaving act, that we are putting a mandate in place that is going to guarantee a much higher level of vaccination in this city. And that is the key to protecting people, and the key to our recovery.”

Mr. de Blasio has been moving aggressively to get more New Yorkers vaccinated to curtail a third wave of coronavirus cases. He is requiring city workers to get vaccinated or to face weekly testing, and he has offered a $100 incentive for the public.

About 66% of adults in the city are fully vaccinated, according to city data, although pockets of the city have lower rates.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: New York City Councilman Joe Borelli points out that this will mean 69% of blacks, 58% of Latinos and majority of Bronx residents won’t be able to eat in a restaurant or go to the gym.

Queues at Heathrow Are a Quarter Mile Long Thanks to ‘Pingdemic’

Departure queues at Heathrow Airport are up to a quarter of a mile long, thanks to the fact that 25% of staff have been ‘pinged’ by the NHS Covid App. The Mirror has more.

Huge queues have built up at Heathrow Airport amid a suspected Covid outbreak among staff, it has been reported.

Frustrated passengers have been stuck waiting for hours at the London airport today.

Some reported tension within the queues, with people jostling and pushing just to get into the terminal.

The lack of social distancing has led to concerns among some that the virus could spread as crowded people wait to get on their flights.

Problems with the e-gates and sickness among Border Force staff are behind the delays, the Times reports.

You can read the Times report about the queues here.

And Finally…

In this week’s episode of London Calling, James and I talk about Biden’s forthcoming 9/11 moment, whether the clamour for vaccine passports will die down now that we know they’re not as effective at preventing infection and transmission as we thought, the row between Digby Jones and Alex Scott about her Essex accent and my moment of sporting glory, immortalised by legendary darts commentator Sid Waddell, when I rowed my boat to victory in a 2004 BBC reality show called The Other Boat Race.

You can listen to the podcast here and subscribe to it on iTunes here.

News Round-Up

Did the New York Times Suppress the Lab Leak Theory?

There’s a fascinating article in UnHerd by Ashley Rindsberg, author of The Gray Lady Winked: How the New York Times’ Misreporting, Distortions and Fabrications Radically Alter History. He asks why the New York Times was so quick to dismiss the lab leak theory last year and concludes it may have been because of its Chinese interests.

In the opening months of the pandemic, the lab leak hypothesis was actively discredited by the media and scientific establishment, with anyone associated with it smeared as “racist”. The question we have to ask now is how, and why, did this happen?

To a great extent, I believe the answer lies with the world’s most powerful news outlet, the New York Times. At the start of the pandemic, the Times set the news and policy agenda on the lab leak hypothesis, discrediting it and anyone who explored it. The Times did so while taking money from Chinese state-owned propaganda outlets, such as China Daily, and while pursuing long-term investments in China that may have made the paper susceptible to the CCP’s strong-arm propaganda tactics in the first months of the pandemic.

As someone who has spent years researching the history of the Times, I was struck by the paper’s markedly pro-China bent at the start of the pandemic. It opposed Trump’s travel ban to and from China as “isolationist”. It all but ignored the unparalleled success of China’s arch-enemy, Taiwan, in containing the virus. It downplayed China’s economic war against Australia, whose prime minister early on questioned the CCP story on the pandemic’s origins. And it celebrated China’s success in battling COVID-19, taking the CCP’s absurd mortality numbers at face value, reporting in August 2020 that 4,634 Chinese people died from the virus and, six months later, that there were 4,636 total deaths. That in a country of 1.4 billion people only two people died of Covid-19 in the half a year defies logic and common sense. Still, the Times legitimised the CCP numbers by printing them as hard fact.

Of course, over the past year newspapers across the world have fallen for the CCP’s distorted COVID-19 narrative. And there is no evidence to suggest that the CCP did put pressure on the Times. But when it came to the lab leak debate, the Times was relentless. Starting in early 2020, when little was known about the virus – and nothing about its origins – the Times adopted a stridently anti-lab leak stance. In its first report on the topic, a February 17th, 2020 article covering comments made by Sen. Tom Cotton, the Times stigmatised lab leak as a “fringe theory”. Once the story was published, its reporter took to Twitter to describe it as “the kind of conspiracy once reserved for the tinfoil hatters”.

Only one week prior, another outlet made strikingly similar claims. In an editorial, the CCP-owned China Daily thundered that Cotton’s decision to spread “malicious rumours” shows “how irresponsible some are in their haste to attack China”. The Times, echoing China Daily, also cast the lab leak hypothesis as a “rumour”.

Over the months, the Times’s coverage grew even more strident – and more in line with Chinese propaganda. In February 2020, it gave a platform to zoologist Peter Daszak, publishing an opinion piece by him which claimed that the pandemic was caused by “road-building, deforestation, land clearing and agricultural development”. Daszak argued that “discovering and sequencing” viruses like COVID-19 in labs like the one in Wuhan should be a priority.

The Times, which used Daszak as a key source in over a dozen articles, has never mentioned that Daszak’s organisation funded the Wuhan lab, in particular research into bats and coronaviruses, a flagrant conflict of interest. Crucially, there was no mention of this when a reporter interviewed Daszak this February, following his return from a heavily criticised WHO investigation into the virus’s origins. (Danszak later recused himself from the investigation because of the conflict of interest.)

But the Times also never revealed that Daszak was a favoured source for another outlet: China Daily. The state-owned media organisation, along with Xinhua and sister outlet Global Times, repeatedly quoted Daszak to assure readers of China’s full cooperation in the search for the virus’s origins — and to discredit the possibility of a lab leak.

Worth reading in full.

Britain’s Daily Covid Cases Fall to a Five-Week Low

The number of new daily Covid cases in the U.K. fell to 21,952 today, the lowest it’s been in five weeks. Meanwhile, deaths are up slightly compared to last Monday and hospitalisations are down. MailOnline has more.

Covid cases are lower today than they have been since June 29th, according to the official figures released today.

But the number of virus tests conducted also fell to their lowest levels since June 26, suggesting there are cases that have not been picked up.

The new figures follow data published on Friday, which suggested cases are still on the rise and as many as one in 65 people in England are currently infected.

Some experts think fewer people are coming forward for Covid tests to avoid isolation.

The figures also signal a slow in the week-on-week drop in infections, with cases dropping by 12% on seven days earlier.

Last Monday, cases had dropped by 37.5% compared to the previous week.

Meanwhile, there were just 24 deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid tests were recorded, down from 65 yesterday, but an increase of 71.4% compared to last Monday.

Covid death figures released on Monday often lag, due to a delay in recording deaths over the weekend.

Updated hospitalisation figures for last Tuesday show a further 911 patients were admitted to hospital who tested positive for the virus, a drop of 1.6% compared to one week earlier.

Worth reading in full.

News Round-Up

News Round-Up

“You’d Have to be Crackers to Book a Holiday”

A raging battle has erupted in the Cabinet over plans for a danger list of countries that could see destinations like Spain and Italy suddenly move to red. MailOnline has more.

The plans for a new ‘amber watch list’ sparked outrage in Whitehall as some ministers believe it could ruin the holiday hopes of millions of Britons.

The idea, which was agreed in principle this week, would see holidaymakers warned that while they are abroad certain amber countries could go straight on to the red list.

This would leave them facing compulsory hotel quarantine on their return, at a cost of £1,750 a head.

Spain and Italy both featured in talks about countries that could be put into the new category – as soon as next week – amid fears about the Beta variant, which first emerged in South Africa.

Senior ministers, including Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and Chancellor Rishi Sunak, are said to have reservations about imposing further disruption on the beleaguered travel sector.

Mr Shapps urged people to “ignore speculation” ahead of decisions next week. But behind the scenes a battle is raging.

One Whitehall source said: “You would have to be crackers to book a holiday to a place knowing that it could go on to the red list at any moment.

“If you have already booked to go there you are going to spend your whole holiday worrying whether you are going to have to make a dash to the airport to get home.

“The decision next week will basically be in place for August. It is peak holiday season – are we really going to cause that much disruption to this many people?”

Worth reading in full.