Latest News

Anti-Mask Rally in Hyde Park

The Mail headline was “‘I will be not be masked, tested, tracked or poisoned’: Hundreds of anti-mask activists march on London’s Hyde Park to protest the mandatory use of face coverings in shops from Thursday”, but judging from a reader who attended yesterday’s rally there were no more than 250 there. It was organised by Keep Britain Free, Simon Dolan’s fledgeling political organisation, but Dolan himself wasn’t there. However, James Delingpole was and I will get a full download from him on the next episode of London Calling, mine and James’s weekly podcast, available later today.

We’re All Thought Criminals Now

Bari Weiss: Thought criminal

In my latest column for Spectator USA, I pay tribute to the people who’ve been ringing the alarm bells about cancel culture in America, including the 153 signatories of the Harper’s letter, and Bari Weiss, who recently resigned from the New York Times. (You can read the Harper’s letter here and Bari’s resignation letter here.) And I wrote this before the conservative columnist Andrew Sullivan was sacked by New York magazine. (You can read his farewell here.)

The Social Justice Left has, of course, rejected the suggestion that it has cancelled, or tried to cancel, any of its critics. How dare they?!? Pankaj Mishra, the Indian essayist, wrote a riposte in Bloomberg Opinion, arguing that the “privileges” of the whistleblowers invalidated their complaints.

Could it be that increasingly diverse voices and rich conversations are a threat to their free speech — more accurately, the prerogative of famous and powerful people to speak at length on all sorts of things without interruption or disagreement?

This is a standard counter-argument, but it’s an easy one to rebut. The Harper’s letter writers weren’t complaining about their own speech rights being endangered… but those of nonconformists in general. They were using their platform to highlight a problem afflicting people less well protected than they, particularly in the media, the academy and the arts. “Editors are fired for running controversial pieces; books are withdrawn for alleged inauthenticity; journalists are barred from writing on certain topics; professors are investigated for quoting works of literature in class; a researcher is fired for circulating a peer-reviewed academic study; and the heads of organizations are ousted for what are sometimes just clumsy mistakes,” they wrote.

The other counter-argument, this one a bit more sophisticated, is that these public defenestrations aren’t an assault on the norms of a liberal society; rather, they’re an example of democracy in action. When the storm troopers of the left mobilise to get someone fired, they’re exercising their right to free speech. If the person does end up losing their livelihood, that’s just an example of them being held accountable for their views.

There are numerous problems with that position. First, the justice being meted out to these thought criminals is mob justice, with little or no due process. If someone is accused of being racist or transphobic, their employer rarely gives them a chance to defend themselves. Second, being held accountable often involves more than just losing your job. Was Professor Allison Stanger, who tried to prevent Charles Murray being no-platformed at Middlebury College and ended up in the emergency room, being held accountable? And third, canceling someone for having the wrong opinions, even if it just involves publicly shaming them, is not within the acceptable boundaries of conventional liberal discourse, however you dress it up. It stifles dissent, shuts down conversations and creates a climate of self-censorship.

I end by revealing that I’m setting up a US branch of the Free Speech Union – which is clearly much needed – and urge anyone who want to get involved to contact me here.

Worth reading in full.

Round-Up

No time for a proper update today, but here’s a round-up of all the stories I’ve noticed, or which have been been brought to my attention, in the last 24 hours (and a special thanks to Mitesh Kariah who has been tirelessly flagging up stories for me for months):

Theme Tune Suggestions by Readers

Only one today: “No Hope” by the Vaccines.

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A couple of months ago, Lockdown Sceptics launched a searchable directory of open businesses across the UK. The idea is to celebrate those retail and hospitality businesses that have re-opened, as well as help people find out what has opened in their area. But we need your help to build it, so we’ve created a form you can fill out to tell us about those businesses that have opened near you.

Now that non-essential shops have re-opened – or most of them, anyway – we’re now focusing on pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants, as well as other social venues. As of July 4th, many of them have re-opened too, but not all. Please visit the page and let us know about those brave folk who are doing their bit to get our country back on its feet – particularly if they’re not insisting on face masks! Don’t worry if your entries don’t show up immediately – we need to approve them once you’ve entered the data.

Note to the Good Folks Below the Line

I enjoy reading all your comments and I’m glad I’ve created a “safe space” for lockdown sceptics to share their frustrations and keep each other’s spirits up. But please don’t copy and paste whole articles from papers that are behind paywalls in the comments. I work for some of those papers and if they don’t charge for premium content they won’t survive.

Gone Fishin’

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the last 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. If you feel like donating, however small the sum, please click here. I’m in Italy until Saturday, July 25th and won’t be doing much work on this site for a week (although I will try and do a rudimentary daily update). If you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in tomorrow’s update, email me here.

Salem 2.0

I thought I’d give my readers something to chew on while I’m on holiday: Salem 2.0: The Return of the Religious Police to the Public Square. This is a book about cancel culture that I’ve been working on for a while now, but which took a back seat during the coronavirus crisis. Hoping to get back to it as the crisis recedes – although that’s happening more slowly than any of us hoped. It’s a work in progress, so don’t expect too much.

Latest News

Greetings From Venice

The plague doctor will see you now

I’m in Venice where today is supposed to be the climax of Il Redentore, an annual festival held on the third weekend in July celebrating the end of the plague in 1576 that killed 50,000 people. In 1576, the Senat decided to build a small wooden church on Giudecca Island, now known as the Redentore Church (Church of the Redeemer). It’s actually opposite the hotel I’m staying in on the main island and I can see it out of my window as I write. If things were unfolding as planned, a temporary bridge would be built out of barges across the Grand Canal and thousands of people would cross to the Church and give thanks to God for ending the plague.

But of course it’s been cancelled. The local authorities took that decision on July 10th, just one week before the festival was due to begin, delivering yet another blow to the local businesses that depend on tourism, which is the vast majority. Tourism is the city’s main source of income, with 23 million people visiting in a normal year, but that’s dwindled to almost nothing during the pandemic. The cancellation of the Festival of the Redeemer follows the cancellation of the last two days of the Venice Festival in March, as well as the postponement of the next Venice Biennale from 2021 to 2022. The hotels, museums, restaurants, bars, cafes, water taxis and gondoliers are all struggling to stay in business.

The irony is that the absence of tourists makes this the perfect time to visit. Normally in July, the old city is like Oxford Street on a Saturday afternoon, with the main thoroughfares becoming virtually impassable, let alone the narrow streets. But now, almost the only people here are Italians, either the local residents, or visitors for the day from nearby areas. I’m having a lovely time wandering around museums and churches with my family, and eating at the city’s finest restaurants. You have to wear face coverings in shops and all the visitor attractions, as well as the communal areas of the hotels, but apart from that it’s heavenly. Or it would be if I wasn’t constantly being reminded that without a massive bailout a lot of these businesses will go bust. Not only will that mean tens of thousands of people losing their livelihoods, but also less tax revenue to spend on the city’s crumbling buildings and infrastructure. Not that the Italian Government will be in a position to plug that hole. The entire Italian economy has been propped up by tourism for years and the ongoing travel restrictions around the world, as well as the public’s irrational fear of the virus, will mean a huge black hole in the country’s finances this year. I fear for the future of this beautiful city.

Must-See Interview With Professor Carl Heneghan

Freddie Sayers, the Editor of UnHerd, has done another of his interviews with high-level lockdown sceptics, this time Carl Heneghan and Tom Jefferson from Oxford’s Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine. And it’s a blockbuster. Both pour scorn on the conventional wisdom about the virus. Here are some of the highlights of Professor Heneghan’s contributions:

  • On the effectiveness of masks: “By all means people can wear masks but they can’t say it’s an evidence-based decision… there is a real separation between an evidence-based decision and the opaque term that ‘we are being led by the science’, which isn’t the evidence.”
  • On whether this a proper pandemic or just a bad bout of seasonal infection: “One of the keys of the infection is to look at who’s been infected, which shows a crucial difference when comparing the pandemic theory to seasonal theory. In a pandemic you’d expect to see young people disproportionately affected, but in the UK we’ve only had six child deaths, which is far less than we’d normally see in a pandemic. The high number of deaths with over-75s fits with the seasonal theory.”
  • On the lockdown strategy: “Many people said that we should have locked down earlier, but 50% of care homes developed outbreaks during the lockdown period so there are issues within the transmission of this virus that are not clear… Lockdown is a blunt tool and there needs to be intelligent conversations about what mitigation strategies can keep society functioning while we keep the most vulnerable shielded.”
  • On whether trying to suppress the spread of the virus is a good idea: “The benefits of the current strategy are outweighed by the harms…When it comes to suppression, only the virus will have a determination in that. If you follow the New Zealand policy of suppressing it to zero and locking down the country forever, then you’re going to have a problem… This virus is so out there now, I cannot see a strategy that makes suppression the viable option. The strategy right now should be how we learn to live with this virus.”
  • On the infection fatality rate: “We will be down about where we were with the swine flu: around 0.1-0.3% which is much lower than what we think because at the moment we are seeing the case fatality.”

Worth watching in full.

DHSC Has No Fear of Winter Surge

Bob’s latest Telegraph cartoon

A reader with a relative who’s quite high up in the Department of Health and Social Care has some inside dope about the “second wave”:

A very close family relative who works in the DHSC turned up today with some interesting information. Apparently, there is in reality within the Department’s walls no current expectation whatsoever of any big health crisis in the winter to come, regardless of the current propaganda campaign telling us we face catastrophe. “How so?” I hear you cry. The reason is simple. They’ve twigged, as has anyone else with half a brain, that a large number of the people who might be susceptible to to the so-called second COVID-19 wave or an outbreak of influenza have – wait for it – already died.

Round-Up

No time for a proper update today, but here’s a round-up of all the stories I’ve noticed, or which have been been brought to my attention, in the last 24 hours (and a special thanks to Mitesh Kariah who has been tirelessly flagging stories up for me for months):

Theme Tune Suggestions by Readers

Only one today: “(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang” by Heaven 17.

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A few weeks ago, Lockdown Sceptics launched a searchable directory of open businesses across the UK. The idea is to celebrate those retail and hospitality businesses that have re-opened, as well as help people find out what has opened in their area. But we need your help to build it, so we’ve created a form you can fill out to tell us about those businesses that have opened near you. Now that non-essential shops have re-opened – or most of them, anyway – we’re now focusing on pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants, as well as other social venues. As of July 4th, many of them have re-opened too, but not all. Please visit the page and let us know about those brave folk who are doing their bit to get our country back on its feet – particularly if they’re not insisting on face masks! Don’t worry if your entries don’t show up immediately – we need to approve them once you’ve entered the data.

Note to the Good Folks Below the Line

I enjoy reading all your comments and I’m glad I’ve created a “safe space” for lockdown sceptics to share their frustrations and keep each other’s spirits up. But please don’t copy and paste whole articles from papers that are behind paywalls in the comments. I work for some of those papers and if they don’t charge for premium content they won’t survive.

I know it becomes difficult to navigate the comment threads after 24 hours. One alternative to continuing to post below my updates is to move to our new Lockdown Sceptics Forums, which webmaster Ian Rons has just created. (You’ll need to verify your email address before you can start posting.) Apologies for not creating them sooner. Any problems, email Ian here. Or just email him to thank him for creating such a great website. (For some reason, the Forums have become a spam magnet so we’ve closed them temporarily while Ian writes some code to stop that happening.)

Gone Fishin‘

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation recently to pay for the upkeep of this site. If you feel like donating, however small the sum, please click here. But I’m on holiday until Saturday, July 25th and won’t be doing much work on this site for a week. If you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here.

Salem 2.0

I thought I’d give my readers something to chew on while I’m on holiday: Salem 2.0: The Return of the Religious Police to the Public Square. This is a book about cancel culture that I’ve been working on for a while now, but which took a back seat during the coronavirus crisis. Hoping to get back to it as the crisis recedes – although that’s happening more slowly than any of us hoped. It’s a work in progress, so don’t expect too much.

Latest News

Maybe there is a benefit to face masks after all

Round-Up

No time for an update today, but here’s a round-up of all the stories I’ve noticed, or which have been been brought to my attention, in the last 24 hours (and a special thanks to Mitesh Kariah who has been tirelessly flagging stories up for me for months):

Theme Tune Suggestions by Readers

Only one today: “Witchfinder General” by Carl Douglas

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A few weeks ago, Lockdown Sceptics launched a searchable directory of open businesses across the UK. The idea is to celebrate those retail and hospitality businesses that have re-opened, as well as help people find out what has opened in their area. But we need your help to build it, so we’ve created a form you can fill out to tell us about those businesses that have opened near you. Now that non-essential shops have re-opened – or most of them, anyway – we’re now focusing on pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants, as well as other social venues. As of July 4th, many of them have re-opened too, but not all. Please visit the page and let us know about those brave folk who are doing their bit to get our country back on its feet – particularly if they’re not insisting on face masks! Don’t worry if your entries don’t show up immediately – we need to approve them once you’ve entered the data.

Note to the Good Folks Below the Line

I enjoy reading all your comments and I’m glad I’ve created a “safe space” for lockdown sceptics to share their frustrations and keep each other’s spirits up. But please don’t copy and paste whole articles from papers that are behind paywalls in the comments. I work for some of those papers and if they don’t charge for premium content they won’t survive.

I know it becomes difficult to navigate the comment threads after 24 hours. One alternative to continuing to post below my updates is to move to our new Lockdown Sceptics Forums, which webmaster Ian Rons has just created. You’ll need to verify your email address before you can start posting, but they should be relatively easy to navigate. Apologies for not creating them sooner. Any problems, email Ian here. Or just email him to thank him for creating such a great website.

Gone Fishing Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation recently to pay for the upkeep of this site. If you feel like donating, however small the amount, please click here. But I’m on holiday until Saturday, July 25th and won’t be doing much work on this site for a week. If you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here.

Salem 2.0

I thought I’d give my readers something to chew on while I’m on a break: Salem 2.0: The Return of the Religious Police to the Public Square. This is a book about cancel culture that I’ve been working on for a while now, but which took a back seat during the coronavirus crisis. Hoping to get back to it as the crisis recedes – although that’s happening more slowly than I hoped. It’s a work in progress, so don’t expect too much. The shape of it should be pretty clear, however.

Latest News

Design Your Own Face Mask

You can design your own face mask here. My suggestion above, courtesy of my daughter Sasha who came up with the prototype. We were using it in our merch store but I’ve now closed that because I actually lost money in the first month of trading.

If you cannot bear the thought of wearing a face covering of any kind, even one you’ve designed yourself, here’s a handy solution:

These lanyards are available from Amazon for the very reasonable price of £4.95. Purchase here. According to this piece in Edinburgh Live, you can also get “Hidden Disability” lanyards from eBay. One seller has already clocked up £300.

Get them now while stocks last.

Lidl Won’t Enforce Mask Compliance in Wales (and Neither Will the Police)

Encouraging email from a reader in Wales;

I’ve double checked by ringing Lidl and they confirm that, though they have to recommend masks, they will not be stopping entry or accosting anyone. Our local branch staff are always very laid back and cheerful and have been throughout The Madness. Claps all round for them! Incidentally, to my knowledge not one of them has been ill since early March.

My stepson is a sergeant in the local police and they say they’re not getting involved in the mask business – there aren’t enough of them and they have a considerable increase in mental health problems and domestic abuse calls to deal with.

Why No-One Can Ever Recover From COVID-19 in England

There’s an excellent post on the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine blog by Yoon K Loke and Carl Heneghan pointing out that, due to the way statistics are recorded by Public Health England (PHE), it’s impossible for a patient to recover from COVID-19. Here’s the key passage:

It seems that PHE regularly looks for people on the NHS database who have ever tested positive, and simply checks to see if they are still alive or not. PHE does not appear to consider how long ago the Covid test result was, nor whether the person has been successfully treated in hospital and discharged to the community. Anyone who has tested Covid positive but subsequently died at a later date of any cause will be included on the PHE Covid death figures.

By this PHE definition, no one with Covid in England is allowed to ever recover from their illness. A patient who has tested positive, but successfully treated and discharged from hospital, will still be counted as a Covid death even if they had a heart attack or were run over by a bus three months later.

This is one reason the daily PHE Covid death tolls include so many people who died weeks, sometimes months, ago – they include people who had COVID-19, made a complete recovery, then died of a completely unrelated illness.

Loke and Heneghan conclude:

It’s time to fix this statistical flaw that leads to an over-exaggeration of Covid-associated deaths. One reasonable approach would be to define community Covid-related deaths as those that occurred within 21 days of a Covid positive test result.

In summary, PHE’s definition of the daily death figures means that everyone who has ever had Covid at any time must die with Covid too. So, the Covid death toll in Britain up to July 2020 will eventually exceed 290k, if the follow-up of every test-positive patient is of long enough duration.

Worth reading in full.

Mask-Up, Granny Killer

Laura Dodsworth, the artist who’s started an ‘Art Under Lockdown‘ project, has written an excellent squib for Lockdown Sceptics about the absurdity of the mask edict. Here’s a taster:

According to Michael Gove, wearing masks is good manners. Nicola Sturgeon says they are a sign of ‘solidarity’. Matt Hancock has admitted they are to ‘give people more confidence to shop safely’. The emotionally manipulative and coercive language around masks focuses on what they represent – showing you care. Who wants to be impolite? Who wants to be derided for not caring? While very few people are wearing masks on the high street, online mask shaming is in your face. Covidiot. Selfish. Get over it. Mask up. Granny killer.

Worth reading in full.

No Cost-Benefit Analysis

The FT published a long investigation yesterday into the mistakes the Government has made in its handling of the coronavirus crisis, focusing on the week leading up to lockdown. Unfortunately, the crack investigative team simply take it for granted that we should have locked down earlier – a week earlier, to be precise – and concentrate their fire on exposing the series of blunders and missteps that meant we didn’t lock down until March 23rd.

This trope is now so firmly embedded in the mainstream media, it’s going to take a lot to dislodge it. And it received more support yesterday from Sir Patrick Vallance who told the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee that SAGE urged the Cabinet to lock down a week earlier. He said he couldn’t remember whether it was at the meeting on March 16th or 18th, but whichever it was the advice was that “the remainder of the [lockdown] measures should be introduced as soon as possible”.

One small problem with that claim, Sir Patrick: it isn’t in the minutes of the SAGE meetings for March 16th and 18th – at least, not those released so far. As readers will recall, I parsed those minutes and found no evidence that any of the Government’s scientific advisors were arguing for a full lockdown before March 23rd, let alone the Chief Scientific Advisor. Here’s what I wrote on June 11th:

At no point did SAGE discuss anything resembling a full lockdown. Indeed, SAGE noted at a meeting on March 10th that banning public gatherings would have little effect since most viral transmission occurred in confined spaces, such as within households.

The last SAGE meeting before the lockdown was on March 18th where it was noted that the impact of the social distancing measures introduced thus far would not be known for two or three weeks. The attendees did not at that stage know whether those measures would be sufficient to prevent the NHS’s critical care capacity being overwhelmed and in the absence of more data could not offer any advice on whether additional measures – such as closing bars, restaurants and entertainment centres, and limiting use of indoor workplaces – would be necessary. The only further measure SAGE recommended at that meeting was closing schools.

“SAGE advises that the measures already announced should have a significant effect, provided compliance rates are good and in line with the assumptions. Additional measures will be needed if compliance rates are low.” – Minutes of the 17th SAGE meeting on COVID-19, March 18th 2020

Is this really what we’ve got to look forward to in the forthcoming public inquiry? A forensic investigation of why the Government didn’t lock down a week earlier, with all the protagonists in the drama frantically trying to dodge the blame for the delay, rather than questioning whether we should have locked down at all?

Wake me up when it’s over.

But there is one hidden gem in the FT’s investigation. It’s in the section focusing on March 23rd, when the decision to lockdown was “finally” taken.

Later that day, a plan to lockdown the UK simultaneously finally took shape, an approach backed by leaders in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

On that fateful Friday, Cobra was chaired by Michael Gove, cabinet office minister, not Johnson. Khan says: “I went to that meeting expecting it to be London only.” Gove proposed that the pubs should close on Saturday lunchtime, but Khan and Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, argued that this was a disastrous idea and that Friday night would see mayhem. “There would have been an end of days party,” says one participant.

Gove agreed — Cummings had also come to the same conclusion — and a message was hastily relayed to Johnson, preparing for the 5pm press conference, that Cobra had agreed that the closure of pubs and restaurants should take immediate effect on Friday night. Only Jesse Norman, a Treasury minister, raised any doubts, asking whether there had been any cost-benefit analysis of the economic and health impacts of lockdown or consideration of less onerous alternatives. Around the room there were blank looks: the decision had been taken.

So there you have it folks. Only one person at that critical meeting on March 23rd asked whether any cost-benefit analysis of the impact of the lockdown had been done – Jesse Norman MP. And his question was answered with blank looks. Clearly, no such analysis had been done. When the Government took the decision to lock down the country, it was flying blind.

I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised, but I have to confess to a moment of shock when I read that. My position has always been that if the state is going to curtail our liberty, it needs a very good reason for doing so. My understanding was that when the decision was taken to place the entire population under virtual house arrest, the Government had calculated that it would do more good than harm – that it would have a net public health benefit. I was always sceptical about the claim that it would, but at least the Government had an arguable case – or so I thought. Turns out, they didn’t. They hadn’t made any calculations. They literally had no idea whether such a draconian act would do more good than harm. From the sound of it, it didn’t even occur to anyone in the Cabinet to ask the question. They just went ahead and removed our liberty anyway.

Unforgivable.

Graham Brady MP: No Fan of Masks

Sir Graham Brady: second Sceptic of the Week

A reader has passed on the reply of her local MP – Sir Graham Brady – after she wrote to him setting out her objections to face masks. It makes for interesting reading:

Thank you for your email.

A number of constituents have written to me with their concerns of this new regulation, with reasonable questions regarding how long we may have this in place and whether this will again be extended to office and work spaces. I am pleased at least that the Government has made it clear that this requirement will not extend to offices.

Other countries such as Germany, Italy and Spain have taken a similar step to try to halt the spread of COVID-19 as their economies begin to open up. The evidence in relation to the efficacy of face masks outside a clinical setting is however, finely balanced, one local specialist said to me that if there is a benefit, it is more likely because a mask makes it less likely that the wearer will touch his face than because of any effect in preventing airborne transmission. I do not think that a compelling case has been made for something of such uncertain value to be made compulsory, but this decision has been made under emergency powers and was not debated or voted on in the House of Commons.

It is important that this regulation, along with other emergency COVID-19 legislation, should only be temporary. My biggest concern is that the government has not set out the criteria on which the decision to introduce compulsion was made, and that we remain therefore in the dark as to when it will end.

These laws sit very uncomfortably with our traditions of liberty and I shall be working to ensure that they do not continue for any longer than is strictly necessary.

Best wishes.

Yours sincerely,

Sir Graham Brady

Sad News From Ireland

A reader called Clive Buckley has been in touch to tell me about the news from Ireland. It was good. Now it’s bad.

I’m fortunate enough to have a second home in Waterford County in the Republic of Ireland where I also have an ongoing project. Converting a cowshed in to an events venue. When lockdown started I was in the UK. Managed to return to Ireland end of May and was expecting strict protocols. However, to my delight I found a healthy disregard to the regs as only the Irish know how. No queues at supermarkets, no face nappies. No pubs open, but people meeting on beaches and in each others gardens for beer and company and using their common sense. At one of these BBQs I was informed by a member of the emergency services that the total number of cases in the whole of Waterford County was 166, no deaths and I had more chance of being killed by a cow. The Government were accelerating easing of restrictions. Hotels and gastro pubs, hair salons, beauty parlours would all reopen on July 10th with full reopening of all pubs on July 20th. Happy days. They even came up with a brilliant new slogan: “Take Responsibility, Use Your Common Sense.” Why hadn’t Mr Johnson thought that one up?

Went back to the UK and returned to Ireland yesterday to continue my project now three months behind schedule, looking forward to the re-opening on July 20th and that pint of proper Draught Guinness as only the Irish know how. Then the news arrived.

Listening to Matt Cooper on Today fm it was announced the Irish Government were putting the breaks on re-opening and were going back to plan A due to an increase in infections. A massive rise in infections amongst the young taking the R number above 1. The usual rhetoric about it being cruel and indiscriminate. Numbers? Fourteen new cases and two deaths. I haven’t crunched the numbers but that looks like the virus has all but disappeared. They then wheeled out Professor Gerard Killean from the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental science to justify the new stance. Again the usual rhetoric, but when asked why is it OK for gastro pubs, hair salons, etc. to be open he agreed with the question and stated that they should never have been opened. Nothing should have opened. Not until the infection rate hits zero like New Zealand. What is it with these scientists?

So to get that pint of Guinness I have to book a table in a Gastro Pub, order a substantial order of food to a minimum of €9 (who thought that one up?) and leave after 90 mins. Back to Draught in cans.

Sue Denim Weighs in on Academy of Medical Sciences Report

How did the Academy of Medical Sciences work out how many people were likely to die from Covid this winter? They asked Neil Ferguson to look into his “model”.

Longtime Lockdown Sceptics contributor “Sue Denim” – the pseudonymous ex-Google engineer who drew attention to the shortcomings of the code underpinning Imperial’s notorious Report No. 9 – has taken a look at the Academy of Medical Sciences report that predicts 119,000 people will die in hospitals this winter if we don’t wear face coverings, etc. I wrote about it for the Telegraph on Monday (and the Times, rather oddly, wrote about it yesterday). As you’ll recall, the 37 “experts” who compiled that report relied on Imperial’s shonky computer model to come up with the apocalyptic scenario.

I took a look and noticed the following.

Why is a “researcher in atmosphere, oceans and climate” credited as a source of “additional expertise”? Why is one of the contributors from the Met Office? The only parts of the report that address the weather speak in generalities anyone could have said, things like respiratory viruses spread better in winter, or air pollution may exacerbate Covid. You don’t need to be a weather expert to know that people catch such viruses in winter.

Especially odd because the report states transmission is “dominated by indoor pathways”. So why care so much about conditions outside?

Annex 1 is bizarrely out of place for what purports to be a medical document. It’s titled “People’s Perspective” but defines people to mean patients with long-term illnesses, and BAME minorities. What about the people who don’t have long term illness? What about white people? Their perspectives don’t matter and they aren’t “involved in the decisions made about our lives”, as they put it.

It has “not been subject to formal peer review” and they “accept no legal liability for decisions made based on this evidence”.

They say that their IFR estimate is “at the time of writing” estimated to be 1.1%. As you already noted, this is far too high when compared with actual measurements. Why does their number differ so much from current information?

They provide three citations for this value, citations 37-39. Each citation is problematic.

Citation 37 dates from June 11th and is a letter that comes from Professor Ferguson’s team. It argues that herd immunity isn’t reached because number of recorded deaths varies significantly by country, so that means only different lockdowns can explain the inter-country differences.

Citation 38 is a website showing the output of a continuously updated Cambridge model. It estimates IFR at 1.3%. It’s unclear why they conclude such a different IFR from others, but one issue might be that their only sero-survey is based exclusively on NHS blood transfusion donors. Are blood donors really statistically representative of the entire UK population? How have people been donating blood in recent weeks given the lockdowns? Given Ioannidis et al were criticised quite heavily for recruiting people via Facebook, on the grounds that this may have led to an unrepresentative sample, it would appear this methodology may have far worse biases.

Citation 39 is again a paper from Neil Ferguson’s team (credited as Verity et al), which beyond being another model based analysis, dates from March 30th and it thus hopelessly out of date.

There are over 300 citations in this 78 page report. “At the time of writing” isn’t defined anywhere, but it seems likely they’ve been writing it for so long that their conclusions were based on obsolete sources by the time of publication but they didn’t want to revisit and rewrite their conclusions.

At any rate, to support their core figure they give what look like multiple citations, but in reality they’re citing the same people saying the same things in different forums. It looks more robust than it really is.

They now accept that exposure to sunlight is good for stopping Covid and prolonged indoor contact spreads it – so why did they previously recommend everyone be locked indoors and why has this prior failure not reduced their self confidence?

Interestingly, they say 10% of all excess winter deaths are caused by fuel poverty, not influenza. Attributing all excess winter deaths to influenza is a pretty typical way to guesstimate how many people it kills.

“Removing the many practical and financial disincentives/barriers to infection control measures (e.g. loss of income/employment) would improve adherence and mitigate wider health effects” 😂

They mention remdesivir and dexamethasone as potential treatments, but not hydroxychloroquine. What a shock.

Although they observe that lockdown hurts mental health in the first section, by the time they’re discussing what to do this winter they’re only interested in protecting the mental health of NHS workers.

The survey in Annex 3 is interesting.

Oddly, it appears awareness of the NHS backlog is zero amongst the general public (section 3.3, “there did not appear to be an awareness of the backlog among participants in our public dialogue sessions”).

“Participants were aware that many regular health check-ups and appointments have been cancelled… however this combination of local experiences did not translate in the group into a picture of a national backlog”.

Perhaps a way to create more lockdown skepticism is by pointing out that the NHS is now hopelessly overloaded and with no obvious way to ever catch up except by people who need treatment dying (as it’s at max capacity in normal conditions). They estimate the backlog will reach 10 million by the end of the year.

Also, people who know more about the pandemic trust scientists less:

“There was a common perception that a single scientific truth exists around the pandemic and that scientists are the ones promoting and defending it, while politicians are more focussed on protecting the economy.

“But those who were more interested in the pandemic and knew more about it were also more likely to question the mortality and infection figures, wondering whether they are being massaged or underreported. Among this group, those who distrusted the government transferred this distrust to the scientists leading the response, whose position was seen to be politicised.”

The UK May Have Achieved Herd Immunity Already, Say Oxford Scientists

I was ridiculed for making this argument in the Telegraph last Saturday, so it’s nice to get some back up from a team of distinguished Oxford scientists. Sunetra Gupta, Professor of Epidemiology at Oxford and long-standing rival of Neil Ferguson, has a preprint out in which she and her team argue that “sufficient herd-immunity may already be in place to substantially mitigate a potential second wave”. How come? T cell mediated immunity.

The Herd Immunity Threshold… may be greatly reduced if a fraction of the population is unable to transmit the virus due to innate resistance or cross-protection from exposure to seasonal coronaviruses.

Worth reading in full (although it’s quite technical).

Care Home Death Mystery

A probate lawyer has emailed me to tell me about a care home death that strikes him as suspicious.

I recently dealt with an Estate where the person died in a nursing home in April and where the Death Certificate, which was issued two days after death, gives the sole cause of death as “COVID-19 (confirmed)”. The speed with which the Death Certificate was issued is, in itself, suspicious, as I know from other clients whose relatives died around that time that it was taking at least a couple of weeks to get the Death Certificate as Registrars had cancelled all face-to-face meetings.

However, apart from the fact that the deceased was nearly 94 and could therefore quite easily have died at any time just from old age, I have a friend who works in that nursing home and who tells me that the staff there have not been made aware of even a single case of COVID-19 amongst the residents, let alone any deaths.

This suggests to me that either the doctor deliberately falsified the Death Certificate (which surely must be a criminal offence), or that the management of the home has not given the staff information which is crucial for them to protect themselves and the other residents (which is likely to be a serious breach of Health & Safety legislation).

Sadly there is no way of knowing, because the funeral has taken place and even if the family were to challenge the cause of death, no doubt they would be told that the test samples (if there were any, which I doubt) have been lost or destroyed.

I no longer believe anything this Government tells me about COVID-19 and it never ceases to amaze me how many people do seem to trust them (over things such as face masks), when those same people would normally not believe anything the Government (especially Boris) tells them!

He makes a very good point and it reminded me of the late David Crowe’s analysis for Lockdown Sceptics of why Sweden has suffered so many deaths in care homes. Could it be that the real reason for the high death toll in care homes during the lockdown is not that COVID-19 ripped through them, killing elderly residents, but because, for a variety reasons, those residents were badly neglected? Managers were distracted by the need to obtain PPE and put social distancing protocols in place, staff went off sick, relatives weren’t able to visit to make sure their loved ones were okay, and as a result tens of thousands of people died. However, rather than admit it was due to negligence, the care home managers simply told the doctors that the residents in question had died of coronavirus and the doctors were happy to put that on the death certificate.

Round-Up

And on to the round-up of all the stories I’ve noticed, or which have been been brought to my attention, in the last 24 hours:

Theme Tune Suggestions By Readers

Only one today: “The Masquerade” by George Benson.

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A few weeks ago, Lockdown Sceptics launched a searchable directory of open businesses across the UK. The idea is to celebrate those retail and hospitality businesses that have re-opened, as well as help people find out what has opened in their area. But we need your help to build it, so we’ve created a form you can fill out to tell us about those businesses that have opened near you. Now that non-essential shops have re-opened – or most of them, anyway – we’re now focusing on pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants, as well as other social venues. As of July 4th, many of them have re-opened too, but not all. Please visit the page and let us know about those brave folk who are doing their bit to get our country back on its feet – particularly if they’re not insisting on face masks! Don’t worry if your entries don’t show up immediately – we need to approve them once you’ve entered the data.

Note to the Good Folks Below the Line

I enjoy reading all your comments and I’m glad I’ve created a “safe space” for lockdown sceptics to share their frustrations and keep each other’s spirits up. But please don’t copy and paste whole articles from papers that are behind paywalls in the comments. I work for some of those papers and if they don’t charge for premium content they won’t survive.

I know it becomes difficult to navigate the comment threads after 24 hours. One alternative to continuing to post below my updates is to move to our new Lockdown Sceptics Forums, which webmaster Ian Rons has just created. You’ll need to verify your email address before you can start posting, but they should be relatively easy to navigate. Apologies for not creating them sooner. Any problems, email Ian here. Or just email him to thank him for creating such a great website.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the last 48 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. It usually takes me several hours to do these updates, which doesn’t leave much time for other work. If you feel like donating, however small the amount, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here.

Gone Fishing

I’m off to Italy today, back next Friday. Hoping to do my bit for the Italian economy, which is facing a “disaster” due to the lack of tourism, according to the Telegraph. I’m heading to Venice with the family for three nights, followed by four nights in the Dolomites. I will try and get at least one update done from the mountains, but cannot promise it will be very long as I need a bit of a break. Hopefully, the new Lockdown Sceptics Forums will sustain you all until my return.

Spectator Column

“Thanks Ghislaine, but no, I don’t want a lift to Aspen on the Lolita Express.”

In this week’s Spectator I’ve written about the misfortunate of having my name included in Jeffrey Epstein’s “little black book”.

The column begins:

Every time Jeffrey Epstein is in the news, I start getting calls from strangers wanting to scream abuse at me. This happened a lot when the billionaire financier was found dead in his jail cell last year after being arrested on sex trafficking charges, and it has started again following the arrest of his ex-girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell a couple of weeks ago. The reason is that my contact details were in Epstein’s “little black book”, and whenever his name pops up some kindly soul takes it upon themselves to post a picture of the relevant page, which shows my mobile phone number, on Twitter. I may have to change my number, so frequent have the calls become.

I then make a protestation of innocence that won’t convince the peado-hunters:

I can honestly say, hand on heart, I’ve no idea how I ended up in Epstein’s address book. I never met him and never set foot in any of his houses, let alone on his private island. Not that anyone believes me when I say this. Ever since the contents of the book were published on a gossip website in 2015, the people in it have been frantically protesting their innocence. Charles Finch, the film producer, told the New York Times he had no idea why his name was there, as did Vanessa von Bismarck, the founder of a PR company. Joan Juliet Buck, the former editor of French Vogue, said: “As far as I know, I never met Epstein. I never went to any of those famous parties at the biggest house in New York City.” To the conspiracy theorists piecing together the web-like connections between the dramatis personae, these denials might as well be admissions of guilt.

My theory is that, in reality, the address book belonged to Ghislaine Maxwell (and I’m 99.9% sure I’m right):

My best guess is that, in reality, the address book belonged to Ghislaine, whom I do know slightly. When I lived in New York between 1995 and 2000, I bumped into her occasionally at parties and the London address listed as mine dates back to that period. (I sometimes worry about a mob of enraged paedo-hunters turning up outside my old Shepherd’s Bush bedsit and demanding justice.) Rather unhelpfully, the Daily Mail recently ran a picture spread showing Ghislaine out and about “in society” and including a photo of me saying something funny to her in a nightclub, making her howl with laughter. Ever since, that picture has been posted dozens of times on Twitter, alongside the relevant page in the “little black book”, as if it were proof that I was a member of Epstein’s inner circle. It’s guilt by association, although as I point out to the screamers on the other end of the phone, Ghislaine hasn’t actually been found guilty of anything. Needless to say, the concept of “innocent until proven guilty” doesn’t cut much ice with them.

Worth reading in full.

Salem 2.0

I thought I’d give my readers something to chew on while I’m on a break: Salem 2.0: The Return of the Religious Police to the Public Square. This is a book about cancel culture that I’ve been working on for a while now, but which took a back seat during the coronavirus crisis. Hoping to get back to it as the crisis recess – although that’s happening more slowly than I hoped. It’s a work in progress, so don’t expect too much. The shape of it should be pretty clear, however.

Latest News

Could This be Boris’s Poll Tax Moment?

Good comment from Scotty below yesterday’s update. I wonder if he’s right?

I feel slightly more optimistic about the mandatory muzzle edict after having a day to digest the news. Something is telling me that as this ramshackle shitshow of a Government lurches from one idiosyncratic, trigger-happy ruling to the next, a great fire of utter resentment for them will start to burn across our land.

From bizarre quarantine orders to the locking down of Leicester, to the continued assault on the high street and small businesses by this dehumanising, rotten command to suffocate on our own exhalations as we traipse around these places. Add to that the inevitable nastiness that is already present on the likes of Twitter, but will invariably spill out into wider society as we enter a new shaming culture perpetrated by hysterical muzzealots.

Your average punter will become very pissed off with it all, very quickly I’ll bet.

I feel this will gradually precipitate a trickle of scepticism towards these oppressive measures within the general public, and the flock will start to slowly thin. People previously cowed into silence may soon find their voices. Organised “boots on the ground” protests and crowd-funding appeals for legal challenges may suddenly see their numbers and coffers swelled respectively. Those suffering from mental health and anxiety issues may find solace within boards like these, growing our community. Growing our influence.

Boris et al are continually poking the bear, stress-testing the nation to see just what else they can take from us, or force us to do in order to serve their warped New Abnormal agenda. With each new diktat, with every further assault on our civil liberties, they are collectively sticking their heads into the mouth of a crocodile.

It’s only a matter of time before we hear a satisfying “snap.”

Tesco, JD Sports and Lidl have all announced they won’t enforce the new edict. The police have basically said the same. Beginning to look like Boris has over-reached…

One reader emailed me a well-crafted expression of rage: “Do you know how to tell if a politician is lying? Answer: their lips move when they speak. That’s probably why they love masks so much.”

And if masks-in-shops doesn’t push people over the edge, this surely will:

Bonfire of Conservative Party Membership Cards

Take that, Boris

Poppy in the comments has announced that the face nappy edict has prompted her to rip up her Conservative Party membership card – and she’s not the only one, according to the Independent. I know how she feels.

I finally cancelled my Conservative party membership, along with a strongly-worded email to CCHQ. Feel sorry for the poor sod who will have to read it who likely doesn’t care but I sincerely hope that CCHQ is getting quite a few of these emails and it will create an overall mood that the party is starting to haemorrhage its support. That’s the one place we can really hurt them – at the ballot box.

It was the mandatory masks which was the final straw. I tried to hold on as long as possible because I know I’m an asset to the party (early twenties, female) but every time I opened my wallet and saw my membership card, I actually felt a sense of shame that I was supporting a government that has perpetuated such a monstrous fraud on the British people and who are Conservative in name only (CINO). They are a government which no longer align with my principles, what with enormous public spending and some of the most draconian laws ever enacted in peacetime. Enough is enough.

For some readers, it’s not just membership cards that will be torn up as a result of this policy.

The latest news regarding face masks is as you imply, arguably impossible to accept. Face nappies for all. I am now planning to sell up and move to Alderney in the coming months because I cannot believe what has happened to the spirit of this once great nation. Even quite recently we were characterised by “Keep calm and carry on”. All we stand for now is abject fear, pathetic bed-wetting anxiety and a supine willingness to accept loss after loss of personal liberty. Even as the virus disappears!

I am now ashamed of my British passport. I would swap it for a Swedish version in a heartbeat.

UK Government Guide to Arts and Crafts

There’s some helpful advice on the UK Government website about how to make a face mask. No, I’m not making this up.

Looking forward to the follow-up: How to make a tinfoil hat.

Burkhas Optional, Face Masks Mandatory

A reader has sent me a brilliant piece of satire: it’s a slight adjustment to Boris’s famous Telegraph article from two years ago on why he didn’t think the Burkha should be banned. It’s exactly the sort of piece he would have written about face muzzles if he was still a humble Telegraph columnist and not Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Here’s a taster:

If you tell me that masks are oppressive, then I am with you. If you say that they are weird and bullying to expect folk to cover their faces, then I totally agree.

So I was a bit surprised to see that on 24th July the UK Government joined no other European countries (except for Scotalnd) – in imposing a ban on not wearing masks in shops, on public transport and maybe in Offices too – those items of headgear that obscure the face. Already a fine of £100 has been made law. Arguments have broken out over mask wearing. Opinion is divided and there will be demonstrations, on both sides of the argument. What has happened, you may ask, to the UK spirit of live and let live?

If you tell me that the Mask is oppressive, then I am with you. If you say that it is weird and bullying to expect human beings to cover their faces, then I totally agree – and I would add that I can find no scriptural authority for the practice. I would go further and say that it is absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like they have nappies glued to their faces; and I thoroughly dislike any attempt by any government to encourage such demonstrations of “virtue” and “fear”.

I am against a law requiring the mask to be worn because it is inevitably construed – rightly or wrongly – as being intended to make some point about fear.

I’ve given it a permanent slot on the right-hand side in the section entitled: “Masks: How Effective Are They?”

Worth reading in full.

Responses to Mad Woman on the Train

Dame Edith Evans as Lady Bracknell

Yesterday, I announced a competition. It was in response to this email from a reader:

I’ve just received a stern telling off for not wearing a mask on the tube by a crazy masked lady with a posh voice telling me she’s lost six (I tell you six!) family members to the “virus”. I must admit I was left a bit lost for words but obviously still mask free. What should my response have been?!

The best suggestions I’ve received are:

“Would you like to join them?”

“I’m so sorry for your losses – let me give you a hug”

“Come any closer, and you’ll have lost seven!”

“Lucky them!”

“Did they die of Covid or with Covid?”

“To lose one family member to Covid may be considered unfortunate. To lose six smacks of carelessness.”

“It’s called natural selection. Deal with it.”

“Are you sure they’re not just hiding from you?”

“And the crazy coincidences don’t stop there. I’m with the Guinness Book of World Records. How can we contact you?”

“Good Lord, what’s the name of the family doctor? Shipman?”

“Don’t worry; they’re not really lost, you just don’t recognise them behind their masks.”

And the winner is:

“I am so sorry to hear that you have lost so many family members to this virus, you have been incredibly unlucky. I am a person in the vulnerable category, however, with COPD, who has just come out of a 12 week quarantine and very unlikely to have a virus to pass on. Moreover, the Government has said that people like myself are exempt from wearing masks and, as they restrict breathing and reduce the oxygen to the lungs, it would certainly not be a good idea for me to be wearing one. In any case, I have had enough of solitary confinement and want to get a life. So I choose to take the risk!”

Well done to Martin Martinez.

A Dentist’s Stepfather Writes

Is it safe… to go to the dentist?

Interesting email from a reader about the horrendous conditions dentists are being forced to work in:

My stepdaughter is a dental nurse. In March their surgery was closed but she stayed on during lockdown to cancel all appointments and field phone calls, although the most help she could offer was to refer patients to a “Dental Hub” who could do nothing useful except extract a molar or hand out antibiotics.

A couple of weeks ago they opened with all the ridiculous requirements including wearing medical quality masks. They had training to use these which included a testing helmet that looked as if they were headed for another planet (but aren’t we all)!

Last week she had a nasty bout of bacterial tonsillitis (probably bacterial because it responded immediately to antibiotics) and was in bed for one day and off for three (for which she gets no pay – with three kids to support).

My guess, but a logical guess, is that the well fitted mask caused this bacteria to fester and make her ill. Who knows what other ill effects these things can induce. It certainly didn’t “protect” her in any way.

Postcard From Leicester

A reader from inside the plague-ridden city of Leicester has got in touch.

Greetings from Leper City – the new European pariah. Much rumour and nonsense with the police here being very sensible for the most part and not doing anything particularly intrusive. I have yet to see any checks – just a few random signs noting that it is essential travel only. I have moved daily from the city to the county without any problems.

But the lockdown has clobbered local businesses – many bought stock etc ready to re-open, many were teetering on the edge and have now fallen flat. And all because of a rise in positive tests from the city. The BMJ had an interesting piece arguing against local lockdowns.

Most in the city think the lockdown was a political gesture to show a strong decisive Government taking action. It was based on rising numbers of positive tests results (not on hospitalisations or deaths – there has been no increase in either). The reason for the rise in positive test results? Simple – lots more tests were done in the city. There is no spike – we are simply finding people with the virus who are otherwise fit and well.

More on the Academy of Medical Sciences Report

A reader has been taking a closer look at report published on Tuesday showing 119,000 people will die from COVID-19 in hospitals this winter unless we… blah, blah, blah:

Have you noticed in the AMS Report of July 14th that on p.36 it specifically recommends the provision of “alternative accommodation” (among other facilities), which it makes clear would be ideally targeted at “socio-economically disadvantaged communities, including some BAME communities who are more likely to live in multi-generational households”.

How would that work? Where does the alternative accommodation come from? What would it be? Some nice empty flats? Or maybe a disused army camp? How do you get people to move out of their homes? The implication is that multi-generation households will be split up if the AMS experts (listed on four pages!) have their way.

In the next few lines comes the recommendation that ‘supporting people to enable them to comply with Covid-19 advice and guidance’ be laid on. “Supporting” and “comply” – if ever a pair of words had an ominous tone it was them.

On the face of it the passage has a reasonable and pragmatic tone to it. But as I read them I felt a chill down my spine. Is it possible, just possible, that here we have the first traces of how a sector of our population might be selected for relocation to ‘alternative accommodation’ in the interests of the welfare of the state? Is it just me or does that have echoes of trucks at night, boots on cobblestones and knocks on the door? Would it, like face masks, be “obligatory”?

I’m not suggesting for one moment our liberal-minded government of luminaries and visionaries would ever dream of such a thing, but I really do wonder why some of our scientists don’t have the wit to listen to themselves sometimes. The path to totalitarianism isn’t one that falls over a precipice but is instead a gentle and easy slide downhill conducted obliviously by people who have convinced themselves they are the embodiment of moral rectitude.

Incidentally, the Report uses the word “surveillance” SEVENTY times.

“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.” George Orwell, 1984

Or even better

“Sanity is not statistical.” (Also Orwell)

Better Safe Than Sorry

Amusing email from Trevor Parker, a reader in Welwyn Garden City:

Don’t forget to put your mask on though if you’re heading to the shops!

I’m taking no chances though. I’m also carrying an umbrella.

And wearing a snorkel and lifejacket (I can’t swim and we haven’t had a flood here in Welwyn Garden City since….well, ever….but you can’t be too safe, now can you?)

Also I have (in the name of safety) erected a mosquito net around my bed.

And I am carrying a maritime grade fog horn around the supermarket with me from next Friday onwards, which I will be sounding at 20 second intervals, just in case there are any ships nearby and it might possibly be foggy, here, 50 odd miles from the sea. But better to be safe than sorry, eh?

And I’m going to make sure from next Friday that my car will have it’s snow chains on. It’ll protect me from losing control in the snow and ice, and it’ll protect others from me by stopping me sliding into them.

And these are all in the name of safety of course, and I expect I will just have to carry on doing them until a vaccine is found for SARS-CoV-2, which at the soonest will probably be mid-winter some time (of course, many months after there have been any cases reported).

NHS England Reports Zero Deaths From Covid for July 13th – 14th

On Monday I predicted that the day would come this week when NHS England reported zero deaths from COVID-19 and that day has arrived. The data released yesterday for new deaths by NHS England is showing a total of 22, with the oldest death being reported from Royal Surrey County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust on April 27th. There are zero deaths reported for the last 24 hours (or at least, specifically, for the period 4pm 13 July 2020 – 4pm 14 July 2020).

But don’t forget to mask-up.

A Paramedic Writes

Depressing email from a paramedic. I’ve verified his identity.

I work for an out-of-hours service in the south of the UK. We receive cases from 111 and then ring patients to discuss their problems and then either give advice over the phone, send them to a clinic to be seen in person or, if elderly or infirm, send a car to see them at home. One of the services we provide is recognising death, allowing bodies to be taken away to funeral homes before the GP fills in the death certificate.

I cannot give exact details to maintain the family’s privacy but I was recently called to a lady who had died of cancer at seventy-two. Her husband seemed particularly unsettled so after I had seen her and filled out the paperwork we sat down across from one another at the dining-room table. I took off my mask so we could speak freely and asked him what was nagging at him.

The husband said he wanted his wife’s death to be recorded as from cancer and not Covid as his wife had been due to receive immunotherapy when the lockdown began but she had been told, flat, that her treatment was to be postponed indefinitely. A senior medic personally rang her and told her that he had been instructed not to continue treatment of his patients and that nothing could be done, even the oncology unit waiting-room had been turned into a makeshift Covid ward: there would be phone calls every six weeks or so to see how she was. In the second of these phone calls two months later she was told that immunotherapy was available up in London “but that is was probably too late”. She was dead within weeks.

I’ve had to sit at a lot of families’ dining-room tables over the years to give bad news, previously on ambulances in London and now in a civilian car, at all times of day and night. Some have remained with me and others not but never before have I had to try and explain how an entire system has failed. Everyone understands that eventually the human being degrades and dies, that terrible accidents can happen, that there are too few ambulances for everyone but this is the first time that I’ve had a patient’s relative question the entire system.

My having to sit across from a man who simply cannot understand how in a just society treatment can just be turned off by fiat from some manager in an office somewhere isn’t the most terrible thing that has happened in the past few months. However, for the rest of this man’s life he will wonder how entire wards filled with staff, equipment and medication can just be binned at only the prospect of deaths rather than with hard evidence, that known illnesses can be superseded by the potential of others, based solely on modelling.

Dick Delingpole’s Shop

Listeners to London Calling, my weekly podcast with James Delingpole, will have heard us talking about the merch store set up by James’s brother Dick. It sells an array of sceptical products, including the above mug. You can access the shop here.

While you wait for you cup to arrive you can sign this petition.

Don’t Want to Wear a Mask? Problem solved

These handy lanyards are available from Amazon for the very reasonable price of £4.95. Purchase here.

Round-Up

And on to the round-up of all the stories I’ve noticed, or which have been been brought to my attention, in the last 24 hours:

Theme Tune Suggestions By Readers

Just one today: “Faith No More – Everything’s Ruined” by RHINO.

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A few weeks ago, Lockdown Sceptics launched a searchable directory of open businesses across the UK. The idea is to celebrate those retail and hospitality businesses that have re-opened, as well as help people find out what has opened in their area. But we need your help to build it, so we’ve created a form you can fill out to tell us about those businesses that have opened near you. Now that non-essential shops have re-opened – or most of them, anyway – we’re now focusing on pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants, as well as other social venues. As of July 4th, many of them have re-opened too, but not all. Please visit the page and let us know about those brave folk who are doing their bit to get our country back on its feet – particularly if they’re not insisting on face masks! Don’t worry if your entries don’t show up immediately – we need to approve them once you’ve entered the data.

Remember, there are some business that are still not allowed to re-open. Got this depressing email from a reader:

I have a family run nightclub that’s been closed now for nearly four months with no income coming in the overheads and insurance on the building and other costs that I can’t cancel are mounting up.

We must be one of the only sectors that are still ordered to remain closed but with no extra financial support. I would appreciate it if you could do a section for businesses that still remain closed to highlight my plight.

Now I read face masks could stay until next summer which is a nightmare for my business and is absolutely ridiculous. I despair.

Note to the Good Folks Below the Line

I enjoy reading all your comments and I’m glad I’ve created a “safe space” for lockdown sceptics to share their frustrations and keep each other’s spirits up. But please don’t copy and paste whole articles from papers that are behind paywalls in the comments. I work for some of those papers and if they don’t charge for premium content they won’t survive.

I know it becomes difficult to navigate the comment threads after 24 hours. One alternative to continuing to post below my updates is to move to the forum on Lockdown Truth. The creator of that site has extended a warm welcome to everyone here (and he’s launching a crowdfunder to mount a legal challenge against the face mask edict which you can read about here).

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the last 48 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. It usually takes me several hours to do these updates, which doesn’t leave much time for other work. If you feel like donating, however small the amount, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here. I’ll try and get another update done soon.

And Finally…

If you want a laugh, this YouTube video is very funny. Definitely worth clicking on.

Latest News

Face Mask Hell

I’m still not over yesterday’s announcement that face coverings will become mandatory in shops from July 24th. Apart from everything else, the only coverings the Government is insisting on are cloth ones, which every man and his dog knows are COMPLETELY USELESS. As Allison Pearson says in her excellent comment piece in today’s Telegraph, “anything other than tight-fitting, surgical-grade masks are utterly pointless – like trying to stop a bullet with a chain-link fence”. I mean, the evidence that the gold-standard N95 masks are effective in non-healthcare settings is threadbare at best – and they have to be disposed of after a single use. There is literally no evidence that re-usable cloth masks are effective in community settings. None. It’s like wearing a tin foil hat in case you get struck by lightening – an ineffective way to protect yourself from an almost non-existent risk. What has become of us?

I was busy trying to debunk this nonsense yesterday, doing an interview on TalkRadio with Mark Dolan and Iain Dale on LBC, and writing a piece for the Telegraph entitled “Mandatory masks are a matter of politics, not public health“.

Face nappies were not the main focus of my ire in that article, but the absurd report by the Academy of Medical Sciences that just happened to be published on exactly the same day the Government announced it would be making masks mandatory.

It cannot be a coincidence that on the day the Government announces that face coverings in shops will be mandatory from 24 July, a group of scientists led by Sir Patrick Vallance has issued a dire warning about the risk of a ‘second wave’ unless we “get on top of things”.

According to this group of 37 scientists from the Academy of Medical Sciences, 119,000 people will die from COVID-19 in hospital this winter. In fact, the death toll could be even higher, they warn, because they haven’t factored in likely deaths in care homes. In the executive summary, the list of steps we need to take to “get on top of things” includes “wearing face coverings in settings where physical distancing is not possible”, i.e. shops. You don’t have to be David Icke to wonder if there are signs of collusion here.

Before getting into the shortcomings of this report, I allow that its 37 authors are probably right about one thing: the increase in demand for hospital care this winter resulting from all those patients turned away by the NHS this spring.

Hospitals suspended all surgery that wasn’t “essential” during the crisis – due to fears of “the surge” – which means that millions of scheduled operations have been cancelled in the last four months, as well as screening programmes and outpatient care. Consequently, the NHS will be dealing with a huge backlog of patients this winter as a result of unnecessarily turning all those people away this spring. The Academy of Medical Sciences predicts hospital waiting lists could increase from 4.2 million to 10 million by the end of the year.

The rest of the report, though, is the usual scaremongering balls. For one thing, the scientists assume that between 90 and 95% of the UK population hasn’t yet been exposed to the virus, based on the ONS’s seroprevalence surveys. But as I was at pains to point out in my exchange with Dr Adam Rutherford on Monday, just because a person has no detectable IgG antibodies doesn’t mean they haven’t come into contact with SARS-CoV-2 or, if they haven’t, that they’ll be completely defenceless when they are. In other words, the boffins haven’t taken account of T-cell mediated immunity, which significantly lowers the percentage of the population that’s still vulnerable to the disease. Indeed, we may have achieved herd immunity by the time winter is upon us. (Australia is doing pretty well, in spite of it being winter there.)

Then there’s the fact that the authors of the report have over-estimated the infection fatality rate, which they put at 1.1%. The CDC’s recent “best estimate” was a quarter of that, and it will likely fall even further.

And finally, Sir Patric Vallance’s merry men have inserted a ludicrously pessimistic assumption about the infection fatality rate in the absence of the soul-destroying precautions they’re urging us to take, such as wearing face nappies in supermarkets.

The scientists’ “reasonable worst case scenario” assumes the reproduction rate of the virus, absent special measures, will be 1.7, meaning that 10 people that are infectious with COVID-19 will go on to infect a further 17. But according to Professor Carl Heneghan and others, the R number had fallen to below one in the week leading up to the full lockdown on March 23 because the more modest social distancing measures that had been introduced already, which did not include mandatory face coverings, were effective. So why have these 37 experts assumed that the same more modest measures would mean the R number climbing to 1.7 this winter?

My conclusion is that these “experts” are a group of tame lapdogs doing the bidding of their political masters.

I’m afraid that this report looks suspiciously like a propaganda exercise to try and make compulsory face nappies appear more reasonable. The scientists are right about the stress that’s likely to be placed on the NHS this winter from the backlog of patients who weren’t able to access hospital care this spring. But they would do well to remember that the reason those patients were turned away was because of apocalyptic predictions about the “surge” in demand for critical care that turned out to be wildly inaccurate. Let’s not repeat that mistake.

But I regret to say I missed something which a lecturer in mechanical engineering has flagged up to me. Which is that the report’s authors haven’t created their own model, but have relied on the notoriously flawed Imperial College model. Yup, their 119,000 number has been spat out by the same gimcrack computer model held together with sellotape and chewing gum that produced the 510,000 figure back in March.

My eagle-eyed informant writes:

Ignoring appropriate academic practice, the report’s authors are not transparent about how the modelling was carried out. Following up references 42 and 46 on p.12 reveals that it is the Imperial College model, and Ferguson appears in the acknowledgements. A casual reader might assume that the report team did the modelling. They are claiming that “The modelling estimates 119,900… hospital deaths between September 2020 and June 2021” . Have these people learned nothing? Prediction 510k (or 250k, depending), 45k actual (for “with covid” deaths). To suggest that the number of deaths likely to occur is nearly three times greater than shoving the infectious elderly back into care homes is unfathomable. I assume that hospitals will not be repeating that calamity.

Sartre famously said “hell is other people”, but I think I can improve on that. Hell is exactly the same people being wheeled out to provide cover every time the Government wants to take away another of our liberties.

Stop Press: I will keep you posted about the below, spotted on Twitter earlier.

Sceptic of the Week

Sir Desmond Swayne: Not all heroes wear masks

One voice spoke for the nation in the House of Commons yesterday – or, rather, that tiny part of it that is sceptical. And that man was Sir Desmond Swayne, Conservative MP for New Forest West.

“Nothing would make me less likely to go shopping, than the thought of having to mask up!” he bellowed across the chamber when Matt Hancock made his announcement.

I’ll leave it to Michael Deacon, the Telegraph‘s parliamentary sketch writer, to tell the rest.

He was aflame with indignation. It was quite out of character. Normally in the Commons Sir Desmond prides himself on his calm concision, challenging himself to ask questions in the fewest words possible. His record is believed to be three, which he set in May 2018 following a promise by the then Transport Secretary to pursue a “digital railway strategy”. Sir Desmond’s question, in full, was: “What is it?”

Here, however, he was so enraged that he flung brevity to the wind. This was no time for holding back. An Englishman’s face, after all, was his castle.

“Was this consultation with the police force,” he fumed, “and in particular with the chief constable of Hampshire? For it is she who will have to enforce this monstrous imposition” – he spat out this phrase as if it were a maggot in a mouthful of apple – “this monstrous imposition against myself, and a number of outraged and reluctant constituents!”

Competition to Find Best Riposte to Crazy Masked Lady

A reader has been in touch with an interesting brain teaser:

I’ve just received a stern telling off for not wearing a mask on the tube by a crazy masked lady with a posh voice telling me she’s lost six (I tell you six!) family members to the “virus”. I must admit I was left a bit lost for words but obviously still mask free. What should my response have been?!

Please email your answers to me here. I’ll publish the best tomorrow.

No Mask Enforcement in Supermarkets

Got an encouraging message from a reader who works for a high street supermarket chain.

This morning (14/07) we were told that employees would not be expected to wear face coverings, but customers would. However, we should also wait for further advice from head office.

This afternoon, further advice came. The present position is that we have been told “under no circumstances to try and enforce this rule on customers and put ourselves at risk”.

I think everyone should be encouraged that enforcement may not occur at all. Certainly, most of my colleagues have said they won’t be wearing one.

One in the Eye for Pravda

The new-look Radio Times

Good spot from regular Lockdown Sceptics contributor Guy de la Bédoyère yesterday morning:

The BBC’s self-appointed role as the Government’s Pravda slightly backfired this morning when Naga Munchetty interviewed the virologist Professor Jonathan Ball of the University of Nottingham at about half past eight. Her opening, loaded and leading, question was: “Can you explain why (her emphasis) it is important that face coverings are worn in particular environments such as shops and public transport?”

Ball obligingly explained the theory but went on… “the reality is that we know face coverings trap large droplets and therefore if somebody coughs or sneezes it will reduce the chances of them spreading those droplets but unfortunately when people go about their daily lives they often touch those masks; if they are infected they’ll contaminate their hands and they’ll go on to contaminate surfaces so I think that it’s very important everybody understands that the evidence for mask wearing isn’t great but also it may come with hidden risks that they may help spread the virus.”

As ever the Government trope that somehow scientific opinion is a unitary force was exposed once more as nonsense. So now we face 100 quid fines for wearing things that might, in one scientist’s view at least, actually have the potential to extend the virus’s reach.

What’s next then? Street corner marshalls accosting shoppers to inspect masks and how often they’ve been cleaned? Hazmat suits? Why not just dynamite every high street in the country to protect people from shops altogether?

Round-Up

And on to the round-up of all the stories I’ve noticed, or which have been been brought to my attention, in the last 24 hours:

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A few weeks ago, Lockdown Sceptics launched a searchable directory of open businesses across the UK. The idea is to celebrate those retail and hospitality businesses that have re-opened, as well as help people find out what has opened in their area. But we need your help to build it, so we’ve created a form you can fill out to tell us about those businesses that have opened near you. Now that non-essential shops have re-opened – or most of them, anyway – we’re now focusing on pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants, as well as other social venues. As of July 4th, many of them have re-opened too, but not all. Please visit the page and let us know about those brave folk who are doing their bit to get our country back on its feet – particularly if they’re not insisting on face masks! Don’t worry if your entries don’t show up immediately – we need to approve them once you’ve entered the data.

Note to the Good Folks Below the Line

I enjoy reading all your comments and I’m glad I’ve created a “safe space” for lockdown sceptics to share their frustrations and keep each other’s spirits up. But please don’t copy and paste whole articles from papers that are behind paywalls in the comments. I work for some of those papers and if they don’t charge for premium content they won’t survive.

I know it becomes difficult to navigate the comment threads after 24 hours. One alternative to continuing to post below my updates is to move to the forum on Lockdown Truth. The creator of that site has extended a warm welcome to everyone here (and he’s launching a crowdfunder to mount a legal challenge against the face mask edict which you can read about here).

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the last 48 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. It usually takes me several hours to do these updates, which doesn’t leave much time for other work. If you feel like donating, however small the amount, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here. I’ll try and get another update done soon.

And Finally…

Arise, Sir Dellers

For those miscreants who haven’t yet subscribed, here’s a link to the latest episode of London Calling, mine and James Delingpole’s weekly podcast. This week we discuss Prince Harry’s hostage video, my looming holiday in Italy and the horror – the absolute horror! – of mandatory face masks.

Latest News

God help us, it’s finally happened. Later today, Matt Hancock – it would be him – is due to announce that face masks will be mandatory in all shops from July 24th, with the police empowered to issue £100 on-the-spot fines to anyone who doesn’t comply.

To coincide with this fresh hell, I’ve posted a round-up of all the evidence concerning face masks by an anonymous contributor on the right-hand side called “Masks: How Effective Are They? An Update“. Most of the evidence suggests the case for mandatory mask wearing outside healthcare settings is weak, particularly the non-surgical, re-usable cloth masks that the Government is insisting on. Here’s a typical paragraph from one of the articles linked to in the new round-up:

Sweeping mask recommendations – as many have proposed – will not reduce SARS-CoV-2 transmission, as evidenced by the widespread practice of wearing such masks in Hubei province, China, before and during its mass COVID-19 transmission experience earlier this year. Our review of relevant studies indicates that cloth masks will be ineffective at preventing SARS-CoV-2 transmission, whether worn as source control or as PPE.

There was a good Newsnight report by health correspondent Deborah Cohen last Friday, which included contributors making the case for and against mandatory face coverings. Making the case for were Oxford Professor Trish Greenhalgh and Royal Society President Sir Venki Ramakrishnan and making the case against were Nottingham Professor Robert Dingwall and Oxford Professor Carl Heneghan. Needless to say, the latter were far more convincing.

Heneghan pointed out that there was little evidence from randomised control trials showing masks were effective and it was odd for the Government to be mandating a public health measure that isn’t based on RCT evidence. He also said that if masks are used repeatedly, rather than disposed of daily, someone with a viral infection can re-infect themselves when they put the mask back on.

Robert Dingwall was even more scathing:

It doesn’t matter whether the evidence is effective or not. The demand is that governments do something and what we’re seeing here I think is the latching on to the idea that masks are something that a government could do which is cheap, which is symbolic, but which is probably not particularly effective.

But the most interesting thing in the report was the following scoop by Deborah Cohen:

The debate is deeply political. Newsnight understands that the World Health Organisation committee that reviewed the evidence for the use of face coverings in public didn’t back them. But after political lobbying, the WHO now recommends them.

After the report was broadcast, Trish Greenhalgh took to Twitter to criticise it. She complained that Newsnight hadn’t used all of her interview (has she never done a pre-record before?) and that interviewing scientists on both sides of the debate, as opposed to just her side, “sows confusion and could cost lives”. “We need responsible journalism or programmes could/will cost lives,” she tweeted.

This is essentially the same argument that Ofcom made when it issued its coronavirus guidance and which the Free Speech Union is seeking to challenge in the High Court. The evidence that a particular Government regulation will be do more good than harm is inconclusive, but nevertheless it’s wrong to allow people to criticise that regulation just in case it is as effective as the Government claims. If it is – even though we don’t know whether it is – then public criticism of it will mean people are less likely to comply and that, in turn, will cause harm. It’s a bad argument because it’s conditional upon taking it for granted that the Government is right and you can’t ask members of the free press to do that.

Deborah Cohen took to Twitter to defend herself and made a good job of it. “She tried to warn me off talking about the evidence saying people would die if I did that,” she said of Professor Greenhalgh. But she pointed out that the Danish Health Authorities do not currently recommend wearing face coverings in non-healthcare settings, pending the outcome of an an ongoing RCT with 6,000 participants. The bottom line is, you’ll only put people at risk by presenting the case against mandatory face masks if they do more good than harm and the evidence for that is threadbare, at best.

Deborah also doubled down on her scoop: “We had been told by various sources WHO committee reviewing the evidence had not backed masks but they recommended them due to political lobbying. This point was put to WHO who did not deny.”

Recommended them due to political lobbying.

One of the most depressing things about this Government’s diktat is that it will mean people are even less likely to go shopping than they were when non-essential shops were allowed to re-open on July 4th. It’s as if the Government is determined to destroy the high street. First, it insisted on the closure of non-essential shops; then it allowed them to re-open, but only on the proviso that they put ridiculous social distancing measures in place, such as limiting the number of people that can be inside at any one time and insisting that anyone entering use hand sanitiser; now they’ve decided to make the shopping experience even more unpleasant. It’s the final blow, surely? Who will bother to go to a shop when they can get everything delivered to their front door?

The question no one seems to be asking is: Why do we need to worry about interrupting transmission of the virus when almost no one has it any more? The number of new cases in the UK yesterday was 530. People remain infectious for a maximum of 10 days, so that’s 5,300 infectious people in the UK at the moment. If we assume that 60% of them are symptomatic and will stay at home, that’s 2,120 people who could be out shopping, or one person in every 31,604. That’s an infinitesimally small risk.

So what is the bloody point?

Stop Press: David Crowe, who wrote the first round-up of the evidence on mask wearing for Lockdown Sceptics, has died of cancer. RIP David.

Academy of Medical Science Issues Apocalyptic Warning

Sir Patrick Vallance gets his own stamp

This cannot be a coincidence. On the day the Government announces face nappies will be compulsory, the Academy of Medical Science has warned that unless we start making “intense preparations” before next Winter, the NHS will be overwhelmed and up to 120,000 people will die from coronavirus. Sound familiar? The Guardian has the story.

Senior doctors and scientists convened by the Academy of Medical Sciences said on Tuesday that, without urgent action, a resurgence of cases this winter could overwhelm the NHS when services are already stretched because of flu and other seasonal pressures.

The experts were commissioned by Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, to model a “reasonable worst case scenario” for COVID-19 this winter. Their report, which has been shared with ministers and local health authorities, calls for immediate efforts to prepare for a second wave.

Compiled by 37 experts, the report stresses the worst case scenario is not a prediction of what is likely to happen, but a description of how the outbreak may evolve if infections are allowed to surge and little is done to prepare the NHS and social care services.

“The modelling suggests that deaths could be higher with a new wave of COVID-19 this winter, but the risk of this happening could be reduced if we take action immediately,” said Stephen Holgate, Chair of the expert group and Professor of Immunopharmacology at the University of Southampton.

“With relatively low numbers of COVID-19 cases at the moment, this is a critical window of opportunity to help us prepare for the worst that winter can throw at us.”

Take action immediately! Critical window of opportunity! Achtung, achtung! Face masks on, comrades.

Hideous Mask Statue Unveiled in Latvia

Monstrous Project Fear sculpture disfigures Riga Cityscape

This hideous monstrosity was unveiled in Riga, Latvia yesterday, presumably to remind people of the need to be constantly vigilant against the risk of a “second wave”.

Have a guess as to how many people in Latvia have died from COVID-19? 31. And I don’t mean yesterday. I mean in total.

Another Twitter Spat

“Take that, pompous science guy.”

Dr Adam Rutherford, a left-wing science journalist, launched a rather unpleasant attack on me on Twitter on Monday morning, which began: “It is so perpetually exhausting to have to correct these medically and scientifically illiterate pub bores that somehow have national voices gifted to them not by talent or knowledge, but by virtue of nothing other than their volume.” It was a reference to my Telegraph piece on Saturday in which I claimed the population of the UK would soon achieve herd immunity.

He continued:

Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge

Herd immunity does not work like this – as we teach in GCSE biology. Individual immunity, typically via vaccination, prevent the spread of a contagious disease through a population when a majority of that population are immunised and this cannot infect others when exposed to it.

We don’t know if this will work for COVID-19, as a) there is no vaccine b) symptomless infection occurs c) we don’t know if having had the disease confers immunity… d) or if it does, with any permanence e) vaccine-less herd immunity (with the previous crippling caveats) will require more people to get the disease, and therefore more people to die f) I believe exposure rates in the U.K. are currently around 5%, 17% in London. Herd immunity requires >80%.

Apologies if I’ve made any errors here, this is not really my area of expertise. Please do correct me below.

What @toadmeister has done here is to confidently and loudly mistake ignorance for knowledge, because the facts don’t fit his preconceived ideology. Dangerously so.

I suppose the broader point is that in science we are trained to and predisposed to perpetually identify where we are wrong. Look at your work and ask ‘how am I wrong about this?’

Without that you are an ideologue.

This is exhausting because of @Painpoint‘a 4th Law of Thermodynamics: ‘The amount of energy required to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude larger than required to create it.’

He then added an “addendum” from someone he described as “m’colleague on immunity” – Professor Francois Balloux, Director of the UCL Genetics Institute – although the word “colleague” is misleading, as are the repeated references to “we” scientists, because Rutherford is a journalist not a scientist. To be precise, he’s a journalist who thinks he’s a scientist. The “addendum” is a twitter thread posted by Professor Balloux on June 30th about the new evidence that’s come to light about Covid immunity, i.e. that being in possession of IgG antibodies is only part of the story. Balloux’s thread is good, although for Rutherford to link to it at the end of his jeremiad against me was odd because it contradicted several of his claims, such as the idea that you can measure “exposure rates” with seroprevalence data.

I wouldn’t normally respond to such sophomoric abuse, but Rutherford is the presenter of Inside Science, Radio 4’s flagship science programme, and many other people on Twitter also took issue with my Telegraph article, accusing me of peddling “dangerous” misinformation based on my poor understanding of COVID-19. Consequently, I did respond. If you’re on Twitter, you can see my response here. If not, I’ve posted it below:

I was preparing a rebuttal Adam, when I saw you’d posted a response from @BallouxFrancois at the end of your thread that rebuts nearly all of the points you’ve made. As he says, surveys that measure the prevalence of IgG antibodies (which you refer to) are an unreliable way of gauging the percentage of a population that has been exposed to SARS-CoV-2. Seroprevalence surveys are unlikely to detect IgG antibodies for asymptomatic or mild infections.

For instance, a Spanish seroprevalence survey found that 2.5% of asymptomatic patients tested positive for IgG antibodies in a point-of-care test and 2% in an immunoassay; for symptomatic patients, the figure was 16.9% for both tests. See Table 2 here. This and other similar findings are important because if many more people have been infected than seroprevalence surveys indicate that means the infection fatality rate is far lower than originally indicated.

The @WHO initially estimated it at 3.4%; @neilfergie and team estimated it at 0.9% and built that assumption into their modelling; the @CDCgov’s best estimate was 0.26%, and it will likely continue to fall (although the @CDCgov did raise its estimate on July 10th). As Dr John Lee, a former Professor of Pathology, wrote recently in the @spectator: “It could yet settle closer to 0.1 per cent – similar to seasonal flu – once we get a better understanding of milder, undetected cases and how many deaths it actually caused (rather than deaths where the virus was present).”

To properly assess the extent of immunity in any given population, and the continuing threat posed by the virus, we need to take into account T cell immunity mediated by exposure to other coronaviruses, as @BallouxFrancois says.

According to a paper in Cell, ~70% of recovering COVID-19 patients studied had CD8+ T cells and 100% had CD4+ T cells. In addition, the researchers detected SARS-CoV-2-reactive CD4+ T cells in ∼40% – 60% of unexposed individuals, suggesting cross-reactive T cell recognition between circulating “common cold” coronaviruses and SARS-CoV-2. See here.

A preprint last month from a team at Oxford came to a similar conclusion.

Of course, we don’t yet know how much protection T cells provide, but the fact that the number of infections and deaths is falling in all European countries that have eased lockdown restrictions, as well as in those European countries that avoided lockdowns altogether, in spite of most seroprevalence surveys showing that <10% of the populations in those countries have IgG antibodies, suggests something is functioning as a prophylactic against the disease – referred to as immunological “dark matter” by Professor Karl Friston at @ucl.

T cell mediated immunity could be that immunological dark matter. It would explain why young people are less susceptible to the virus – the reservoir of programmable T cells declines with age. In a recent article in the @ConversationUK, a Professor of Genetic Epidemiology and a Professor of Epidemiology speculate that T cell mediated immunity could mean a “population can achieve some sort of immunity to the virus with as little as 20% infected – a proportion well below the widely accepted herd immunity threshold (60-70%).”

If that’s the case, the UK could have achieved herd immunity already – remember, seroprevalence surveys only measure the percentage of the pop that has developed IgG antibodies, not the percentage that’s been exposed to infection.

Another recent study, this one from the University of Nottingham, estimated the disease-induced herd immunity level is around 43%.

You made the point in your thread that we don’t know if having had the disease confers immunity. True, but the fact that there hasn’t been a single, uncontested case of reinfection is a reason to be optimistic. IgG immunity may fade, but even undetectable levels of IgG antibodies would mean a person who did become reinfected would likely get a milder version of the disease than they had the first time, as @BallouxFrancois says. He also points out that T cell mediated immunity is “extremely long-lived”.

So suggesting that the UK will soon achieve herd immunity, as I did in the @Telegraph, does not make me “scientifically illiterate” or “ignorant” or a “pub bore” or “dangerous”, as you claim. You write as if there is a single scientific consensus on SARS-CoV-2 – “the science” – and anyone who dissents from it is an ideologically-driven purveyor of fake news. In fact, there’s very little about the virus, particularly its prevalence and lethality, that is uncontested. Rather, there’s a wide range of views, each with eminent scientists to back them up, along with plenty of research and data.

You often present yourself as an exemplar of best practice when it comes to scientific debate and inquiry, but then, in the next breath, engage in furious, ad hominem attacks on those who disagree with you. It’s as though your self-important, attention-loving self gets the better of your dispassionate, scientific self. For a journalist claiming to be an advocate for the better public understanding of science, this sophomoric name-calling is counter-productive. Perhaps take a break from Twitter? //ENDS

Nicola Sturgeon: “Write Nothing Down.”

Nic Sturge-un is congratulated by her little brother on her foresight for advising her officials not to write anything down

A reader in Scotland sent three emails to his local MSP, hoping he might throw some light on the dictatorial approach of Nic Sturge-un. Eventually, he got a reply and it contained this jaw-dropping revelation:

It is clear that the Scottish Government have not been transparent with the public as they have implemented new measures as we ease lockdown. The Scottish Government must release the scientific evidence that has been used for the key decision making in Scotland throughout this health crisis and as further measures as relaxed.

Following an FOI request, it was revealed that the First Minister did not have any written scientific advice during the first few months of the coronavirus outbreak, and so none could be made available to the public. Nicola Sturgeon said instead that the scientific advice that she had received had all been orally, by the National Clinical Director, Jason Leitch, and the Scottish Chief Medical Officer at the time, Catherine Calderwood, and so there was nothing to be released.

No written scientific advice! That’s incredible. But presumably it will make it easier for the First Minister to dodge the blame when there’s a public inquiry in Scotland about the fact that more people have died from COVID-19 in care homes than in hospitals.

A Death in the Family

A reader writes with some sad news:

I didn’t want to post this on the page, because it feels ghoulish and like an exploitation of the dead, but at the same time, I want people to know that this is happening.

We had a death in the family yesterday morning. My husband’s grandfather. He was 92 but of completely sound mind and health. Never got sick. He has been deeply emotionally affected by Project Fear since the start of the hysteria and lockdown, and despite restrictions being lifted – because of his age group – they remained social isolating. He was not even seeing their daughter (my mother-in-law), because she devised a system of getting them groceries without communicating in person at all by leaving it in a car in the car park! Four months locked away.

We weren’t told this on the phone when we got the news of his death, but we just learned… it was suicide. He was muttering all week that he had “had enough” and he couldn’t take it anymore.

So there we have it… I don’t know a single person who has been sick with Coronavirus. I know one person (who was pregnant) who tested positive but was asymptomatic (and then separated from her newborn baby for two weeks). And we’ve had a suicide from lockdown (and social isolation) in the immediate family.

I’m mad as hell. This can’t go on. How many have we already lost with this cruel torture?

Round-Up

And on to the round-up of all the stories I’ve noticed, or which have been been brought to my attention, in the last 24 hours:

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A few weeks ago, Lockdown Sceptics launched a searchable directory of open businesses across the UK. The idea is to celebrate those retail and hospitality businesses that have re-opened, as well as help people find out what has opened in their area. But we need your help to build it, so we’ve created a form you can fill out to tell us about those businesses that have opened near you. Now that non-essential shops have re-opened – or most of them, anyway – we’re now focusing on pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants, as well as other social venues. As of July 4th, many of them have re-opened too, but not all. Please visit the page and let us know about those brave folk who are doing their bit to get our country back on its feet – particularly if they’re not insisting on face masks! Don’t worry if your entries don’t show up immediately – we need to approve them once you’ve entered the data.

Note to the Good Folks Below the Line

I enjoy reading all your comments and I’m glad I’ve created a “safe space” for lockdown sceptics to share their frustrations and keep each other’s spirits up. But please don’t copy and paste whole articles from papers that are behind paywalls in the comments. I work for some of those papers and if they don’t charge for premium content they won’t survive.

I know it becomes difficult to navigate the comment threads after 24 hours. One alternative to continuing to post below my updates is to move to the forum on Lockdown Truth. The creator of that site has extended a warm welcome to everyone here.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the last 48 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. It usually takes me several hours to do these updates, which doesn’t leave much time for other work. If you feel like donating, however small the amount, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here. I’ll try and get another update done soon.

And Finally…

Latest News

Young People Over-Estimate Covid Risk

A new working paper published in the National Bureau of Economic Research contains a shocking table (see above). The results are based on an online survey of over 1,500 Americans from May 6th – 13th.

The respondents in the 18-34 year-old age group thought their risk of contracting COVID-19 was about 8.8% and if they caught it their risk of being hospitalised around 7.5% and their risk of dying 2%. If those figures were true, that would mean that 0.176% of 18-34 year-olds would die from coronavirus. There are 76.2 million Americans aged 18-34, so if the respondents’ estimate of the risk was correct that would mean 134,112 people in that age group will die.

Needless to say, the real risk posed to 18-34 year-olds is far lower. The Stanford Professor John Ioannidis co-authored a paper in May entitled “Population-level COVID-19 mortality risk for non-elderly individuals overall and for non-elderly individuals without underlying diseases in pandemic epicenters”. It includes the following table showing the total number of under-40 year-olds who’d died from the virus in various countries:

*Data shown for the group with age <45 years (not available for age <40 years)
**Data shown for the group with age <35 years (not available for age <40 years)

Admittedly, this was up to date on April 24th and the numbers will have increased a little since then, but not by much. Ioannidis et al concluded that if you’re under 65 the risk of dying in a road traffic accident is higher than dying from COVID-19.

Herd Immunity

A science professor has got in touch to comment on my piece in the Telegraph on Saturday in which I claimed the UK was well on its way to achieving herd immunity. I cannot be any more specific than that because he doesn’t want to be identified. But he says that, if anything, I understated it.

I note your article today saying “we’re on our way to achieving herd immunity”.

The fact is, however, we already have achieved it!

Once herd immunity has been achieved, the fraction of people infected starts to fall. Since R has been <1 for months now, then by definition, we achieved herd immunity at each point in time over those months for the way society was operating at each of those points in time. This does not prove we have enough immunity in the population to keep R <1 (i.e., to maintain herd immunity) if we (ever) fully release lockdown – but we both know the examples out there that suggest we do have enough immunity.

This is not just an academic point I am making. It is relevant when you look at the Leicester situation. Even in Leicester we still do have herd immunity, i.e., the prevalence of viral infection continues to decline. It is just declining slower here than elsewhere. Nationally it has fallen by >100 fold. It has fallen a few fold less in Leicester, and a few fold more elsewhere. Admittedly there probably were a few weeks bridging May and June when it plateaued or crept up a little in Leicester and elsewhere (i.e., R very slightly exceeded 1), but that has been resolved in the last few weeks.

Although it’s possible that the whole Leicester situation is nothing more than an artefact, due to the fact that PHE do not publish the total number of tests done (i.e., they only release the number of positives). So if a slightly larger fraction of the population in the Leicestershire region were being tested (for whatever reason) compared to other places, then this would give the impression that there is an increased prevalence. Interestingly, just two weeks ago, a PHE report sent to Peter Soulsby, the Mayor of Leicester, stated: “It is considered likely that a large contribution to the apparent change may be associated with increasing testing…rather than a true increase in the number of new infections occurring” and “Evidence for the scale of the outbreak is limited and may, in part, be artefactually related to growth in availability of testing.”

A Future Oxford Student Writes

A reader who has accepted the offer of a place at Oxford starting in the autumn contacted me a couple of months ago to ask me whether I thought it was worth going or whether they’d be better off deferring if they could. I said the situation might look less glum in a couple of months. Turns out, I was wrong.

You may already be aware of this, but I thought I’d draw your attention to the latest news on the arrangements for students in the autumn – here is an excerpt from the website:

“From the start of the new academic year, face coverings will be required during face-to-face teaching and in indoor shared spaces, with exceptions for both individuals and settings where they are not appropriate (for example on grounds of disability). Details on how this will operate will be consulted on.

“University libraries will operate social distancing through capacity limits, with spacing of reader seats, one-way systems, and enhanced hygiene measures, as well as a ‘seat-finder’ app so that reading room spaces can be easily identified.

“Our spaces – both research and teaching, as well as social spaces, communal areas and areas open to the public – will be adapted to ensure social distancing and appropriate ventilation are maintained in accordance with government and scientific advice. We will be timetabling activities and staggering timings to ensure social distancing measures are as effective as possible. The adaptations to our spaces, supported by clear signage and markings, will enable all to safely enter, move through, work in and exit buildings and facilities.”

All quoted from: the University website.

Lectures will be online for at least the first term. Social distancing will also be in place, so I’m not holding out for much in the way of musical societies, drama or group sport…

I asked the student if they could defer for a year. Answer: probably not. On the University website it says:

Will Oxford let offer holders defer their place to 2021 if they don’t wish to start in October 2020?

Subject to any public health conditions still being in force, we are expecting to welcome a full cohort of new undergraduates in October 2020, so we will not routinely support requests for deferral. Any offer holders with particular, verifiable reasons to wish to defer their place should contact the college which made their offer or open-offer to discuss this.

Swiss Doctor Updates Site

The Swiss Doctor has updated his site and, as always, it contains a brilliant summary of the latest research showing the widespread prevalence of T cell cross immunity, etc., buttressing the view that we’ve nearly achieved herd immunity across Europe and America. Below is an extract from the section on the lethality of the virus:

Most antibody studies have shown a population-based Infection Fatality Rate (IFR) of 0.1% to 0.3%. The US health authority CDC published in May was a cautious “best estimate” of 0.26%.

At the end of May, however, an immunological study by the University of Zurich was published, which for the first time showed that the usual antibody tests that measure antibodies in the blood (IgG and IgM) can detect at most about one fifth of all coronavirus infections.

The reason for this is that in most people the new coronavirus is already neutralised by antibodies on the mucous membrane (IgA) or by cellular immunity (T cells) and no symptoms or only mild symptoms develop.

This means that the new coronavirus is probably much more widespread than previously assumed and the lethality per infection is around five times lower than previously estimated. The real lethality could therefore be significantly below 0.1% and thus in the range of influenza.

At the same time, the Swiss study may explain why children usually develop no symptoms (due to frequent contact with previous corona cold viruses), and why even hotspots such as New York City found an antibody prevalence (IgG/IgM) of at most 20% – as this already corresponds to herd immunity.

The Swiss study has in the meantime been confirmed by several more studies:

1. A Swedish study showed that people with mild or asymptomatic disease often neutralised the virus with T cells without the need to produce antibodies. Overall, T cell immunity was about twice as common as antibody immunity.

2. A large Spanish antibody study published in Lancet showed that less than 20% of symptomatic people and about 2% of asymptomatic people had IgG antibodies.

3. A German study (preprint) showed that 81% of the people who had not yet had contact with the new coronavirus already had cross-reactive T cells and thus a certain background immunity (due to contact with previous corona cold viruses).

4. A Chinese study in the Nature showed that in 40% of asymptomatic persons and in 12.9% of symptomatic persons no IgG antibodies are detectable after the recovery phase.

5. Another Chinese study with almost 25,000 clinic employees in Wuhan showed that at most one fifth of the presumably infected employees had IgG antibodies (press article).

6. A small French study (preprint) showed that six of eight infected family members of Covid patients developed a temporary T cell immunity without antibodies.

Video interview: Swedish Doctor: T cell immunity and the truth about COVID-19 in Sweden

In this context, a US study in Science Translational Medicine, using various indicators, concluded that the lethality of COVID-19 was much lower than originally assumed, but that its spread in some hotspots was up to 80 times faster than suspected, which would explain the rapid but short-duration increase in cases in some areas.

Driving Test Misery

A reader has got in touch to tell me about the purgatory her son is in, trying to reschedule his driving test. I confess, I wasn’t aware of this misfortune afflicting young people – yet another to add to the huge number.

Don’t know if you know about the impact Covid is having on driving tests. My son was due to take his practical driving test in April (third time lucky he hopes) but it was cancelled due to Covid. He was given a new date in July but this has also been cancelled. The Government has now announced that practical tests will resume on July 22nd and my son is apparently going to get an email on July 15th inviting him to book a test (no bookings are being taking via the website at the moment). The problem is that his theory test expires in September and despite my pleas to the DVSA and my local MP, the Government has not extended the validity of theory test certificates (though it extended MOTs). So if my son does not get a test before September, he will have to go right to the back of the queue.

That queue is going to be a very long one. Our driving instructor tells me there is currently a backlog of 650,000 people waiting to take their driving tests. So the chances of him passing his test this year are practically zero.

Yet more impact of the lockdown on young people. Especially for those without access to public transport like my son.

Total Number of Covid Deaths in English Hospitals Falls to One

Carl Heneghan, the Professor of Evidence-Based Medicine at Oxford, tweeted that there were no Covid deaths reported in hospitals in England on July 10th, but perhaps the data source he was checking hadn’t been updated because the NHS England statistics site is now showing six. But for July 11th, the total was just one. Won’t be long now before we do have a day on which no Covid deaths occur in England’s hospitals. I predict it will happen some time in the next seven days.

Round-Up

And on to the round-up of all the stories I’ve noticed, or which have been been brought to my attention, in the last 24 hours:

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A few weeks ago, Lockdown Sceptics launched a searchable directory of open businesses across the UK. The idea is to celebrate those retail and hospitality businesses that have re-opened, as well as help people find out what has opened in their area. But we need your help to build it, so we’ve created a form you can fill out to tell us about those businesses that have opened near you. Now that non-essential shops have re-opened – or most of them, anyway – we’re now focusing on pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants, as well as other social venues. As of July 4th, many of them have re-opened too, but not all. Please visit the page and let us know about those brave folk who are doing their bit to get our country back on its feet – particularly if they’re not insisting on face masks! Don’t worry if your entries don’t show up immediately – we need to approve them once you’ve entered the data.

Note to the Good Folk Below the Line

I enjoy reading all your comments and I’m glad I’ve created a “safe space” for lockdown sceptics to share their frustrations and keep each other’s spirits up. But please don’t copy and paste whole articles from papers that are behind paywalls in the comments. I work for some of those papers and if they don’t charge for premium content they won’t survive.

I know it becomes difficult to navigate the comment threads after 24 hours. One alternative to continuing to post below my updates is to move to the forum on Lockdown Truth. The creator of that site has extended a warm welcome to everyone here.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the last 48 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. It usually takes me several hours to do these updates, which doesn’t leave much time for other work. If you feel like donating, however small the amount, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here. I’ll try and get another update done on Tuesday.

And Finally…

My sources in Downing Street tell me the red crayon belongs to Boris, the green one to Dominic Cummings and the blue one to Matt Hancock.

Latest News

Confused Man Wears Mask In Spite of Having Had Virus Months Ago

Muzzled sheepdog looks bewildered. Where’s his owner gone?

This picture really does take the biscuit. Why is Boris bothering to wear a mask when he cannot possibly be infectious or catch COVID-19, having had the virus and recovered. Like me, he has the antibodies. Nicola Sturgeon may have made mask wearing in shops mandatory in Scotland on Friday, but no such rule applies in Uxbridge. So what is the big man thinking? Is this a signal that he’s about to follow in Sturgeon’s footsteps? The Mail seems to think so.

In the early days of the outbreak the UK Government argued that scientific evidence that the masks reduced transmission of the airborne virus was “weak”.

But rules requiring people to wear face masks on public transport in England came into effect on 15 June.

On Friday Mr Johnson said “the balance of scientific opinion seems to have shifted more in favour of them than it was, and we’re very keen to follow that”.

“I do think we need to be stricter in insisting people wear face coverings in confined spaces where they are meeting people they don’t normally meet.

“We are looking at ways of making sure that people really do have face coverings in shops, for instance, where there is a risk of transmission,” he said during a Facebook Q&A.

Gawd help us if he does decide to wet the bed over masks. One reader – let’s call him Tony – has already been in touch to say the very thought of having to wear a nappy on his face every time he leaves the house is making him feel suicidal.

Send Tony some love in the comments.

Stop Press: There seems to be a great deal of confusion about whether face masks should be worn in some of Britain’s most popular galleries and museums. You’ll be required to wear one at the BFI Southbank when it re-opens on September 1st, as well as the Royal Academy, while the National Gallery merely “encourages” visitors to wear one and the Tate doesn’t require them at all. Go figure.

When We Have Herd Immunity, Boris Will Face a Reckoning

I have a piece in the Telegraph today, arguing that the reason the virus is burning itself out in Britain, Europe and parts of America is because we’re on our way to achieving herd immunity in those areas.

At the beginning of March, a lively debate took place about whether Britain should pursue a strategy of “herd immunity” – allowing coronavirus to spread until so many people had developed antibodies that it no longer posed a threat to public health – or place the entire country under lockdown. As is well-known, Boris Johnson initially embraced the former, saying the public needed to take the virus “on the chin”, then performed a U-turn and imposed a full lockdown on March 23.

But recent data coming out of New York reveals that this was a false dichotomy. Sixty-eight per cent of people who took antibody tests at a clinic in the Corona neighbourhood of Queens received positive results, suggesting that, in this area at least, the population is already close to achieving “herd immunity”. This is in spite of the fact that New York imposed one of the strictest lockdowns in the United States.

This fits with other data showing that the life cycle of the epidemic in each region or country where there’s been a viral outbreak follows a very similar pattern, regardless of whether or not a lockdown was imposed or how severe it was. For instance, if you plot the rise and fall in the number of new cases in Sweden on a graph, and then compare it to the same data in the UK, the two lines are almost identical, in spite of the fact that Sweden never imposed a lockdown. The same is true if you compare the trajectory of the virus in the 43 US states that locked down with the seven that didn’t.

The Telegraph wasn’t able to reproduce the graph I had in mind because it appeared in the Spectator. But this is the one I was referring to, which was in an article by Lockdown Sceptics contributor Alistair Haimes.

The fact that the pattern is so similar, regardless of which non-pharmaceutical interventions were made, suggests the reason the R rate has fallen to below one in these areas has nothing to do with the lockdowns and everything to do with the fact that a majority of people have now been exposed to the virus and either had natural immunity or caught it and are now immune. As I point out in the article, that’s good news because it means the chances of a ‘second wave’ happening are virtually nil. But it’s bad news for Boris.

As it becomes clearer that the British population will soon achieve herd immunity, just as the population of Corona has, and the lockdown has done nothing to mitigate the impact of the virus, people will begin to ask tough questions of the Government. And Boris won’t be able to say we only know this now with the benefit of hindsight because he recognised the wisdom of the “herd immunity” strategy back in March. Whatever his excuse is, it will have to be better than that if the Conservatives are going to survive the reckoning.

Worth reading in full.

Escape to the Costa Blanca

Just when you think you’ve finally gotten away from Nicola Sturgeon…

A Scottish reader has been in touch about his escape to Spain. Not quite the idyll he was expecting…

I thought I would give you a quick insight into life in the Costa Blanca, Spain. We escaped Nicola (Bane) Sturgeon a few weeks ago, thinking we were smart. We have had a great time here, but there are potential signs of things to come back in the UK:

1. The wearing of masks is obligatory in all shops. I watched a guy getting manhandled out of Lidl yesterday because he was attempting to cover his mouth with his T-shirt. My wife and I were smirking until I was approached by the same hit squad who had so efficiently dispatched him. I was wearing my usual bandanna, but this was obviously not up to the required standard for this supermarket and I was accompanied out faster than a lizard finds the shade. So now it appears masks have to be of a specific type. Could it happen in the UK next?

2. A new hotel and restaurant opened up on the waterfront in our town. Lovely job. Three days later it was closed down. All the furniture was removed and it was completely de-fumigated. Apparently, the owner was suspected of having Covid. Turned out, he didn’t. He had had a car accident two days before and wasn’t feeling too well. He got a complete decontamination exercise for his trouble. Hysterical. Not seen anyone in it since!

3. It’s great that the shops are open, but it’s becoming a health hazard for your hands. You have to disinfect on entry and exit. Visit five shops and that’s a lot of chemicals. And how my hands are suffering. Dry and itchy. I tried to pretend to have a squirt on them the other day and the “doorman” reprimanded me for it. Scary…

4. It is becoming increasingly bizarre to see waiters having to wear masks in restaurants while the customers don’t. In this heat (up to 40 degrees) it’s downright dangerous. Most of them look completely pissed off wearing them. Will there be a health fallout from such intense mask wearing?

5. When we did a runner a few weeks ago we just about had the plane to ourselves flying out of Glasgow. We thought we were the smart ones. But Nicola’s decided that we have to serve two weeks solitary when we return, e.g. quarantine. She can’t be beaten, but we won’t give up trying!

Perhaps it isn’t all Wee Krankie’s fault. One of her public health advisers, Professor Devi Sridhar, is a bedwetter par excellence. She took to Twitter recently to warn of “constant outbreaks” as lockdown restrictions ease across the country. She said the virus was likely to be present in the UK until at least the spring of 2021 and that if people returned to their normal patterns of behaviour “we will get an uptick for sure”.

I know the economy is suffering and jobs are being lost. I recognise the toll that lockdown has taken and I’m not ‘pro-lockdown’ at all.

In fact my worry is about a second lockdown and how to avoid this happening. Lockdown/release cycles will destroy society and the economy.

That’s a new one on me: I’m so worried about the toll the lockdown is taking that I think we should continue to strictly maintain it to avoid having to re-impose it.

Canaries in the Mine Update

I’m publishing a third article in Dr Rudolph Kalveks ‘Canaries in the Mine’ series today. Dr Kalveks, who has a PhD in theoretical physics, has used a standard tool in epidemiology – the Susceptible–Infected–Recovered/Resolved or (“SIR”) model – to analyse the lifecycle of the virus in different countries and he concluded in the first article in the series that in Europe and America the pandemic was approaching the end of its life and a “second wave” was unlikely. He looked at the data again in the second article in the series and saw nothing to change his mind, and he’s done the same in the third. Again, the data confirms his initial hypothesis:

Notwithstanding that populations are not homogeneous, so that there may remain local groups of vulnerable individuals who may continue to benefit from continued sheltering, the simple message for UK policymakers is that the historic data from the Coronavirus pandemic does not at present provide evidence to support the continuation of substantial restrictions on the normal functioning of our society and economy.

Worth reading in full.

Letter in Harpers Raising Alarm About the Intolerant Left Makes it Harder to Deny Cancel Culture

I appeared on Sky News earlier to debate Guardian columnist Owen Jones about cancel culture, following the letter that appeared in Harpers last week signed by 153 left-wing writers and intellectuals. Owen tweeted on July 5th that he didn’t think cancel culture existed, in spite of the fact that a couple of weeks ago he led demands for Oxford University’s Deputy Director of External Affairs to be fired “by the end of the day” because he’d tweeted something disobliging about Owen’s friend Ash Sarkar.

It’s like the leader of the Red Guards at the height of the Chinese Cultural Revolution saying, “Struggle sessions? What struggle sessions?”

Round-Up

And on to the round-up of all the stories I’ve noticed, or which have been been brought to my attention, in the last 24 hours:

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A few weeks ago, Lockdown Sceptics launched a searchable directory of open businesses across the UK. The idea is to celebrate those retail and hospitality businesses that have re-opened, as well as help people find out what has opened in their area. But we need your help to build it, so we’ve created a form you can fill out to tell us about those businesses that have opened near you. Now that non-essential shops have re-opened – or most of them, anyway – we’re now focusing on pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants, as well as other social venues. As of July 4th, many of them have re-opened too, but not all. Please visit the page and let us know about those brave folk who are doing their bit to get our country back on its feet. Don’t worry if your entries don’t show up immediately – we need to approve them once you’ve entered the data.

Note to the Good Folk Below the Line

I enjoy reading all your comments and I’m glad I’ve created a “safe space” for lockdown sceptics to share their frustrations and keep each other’s spirits up. But please don’t copy and paste whole articles from papers that are behind paywalls in the comments. I work for some of those papers and if they don’t charge for premium content they won’t survive.

I know it becomes difficult to navigate the comment threads after 24 hours. One alternative to continuing to post below my updates is to move to the forum on Lockdown Truth. The creator of that site has extended a warm welcome to everyone here.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the last 48 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. It usually takes me several hours to do these updates, which doesn’t leave much time for other work. If you feel like donating, however small the amount, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here. (Please don’t email me at any other address.) I’ll try and get another update done on Tuesday.

And Finally…

Latest News

Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled a £30 billion mini-budget on Wednesday to supposedly kickstart the economic recovery.

Perhaps the most eye-catching of his initiatives was a scheme designed to get people eating out again – “eat out to help out”. Participating restaurants will be able to offer half price meals every Monday to Wednesday throughout August, and be reimbursed by the Government within five working days. Although before you get your hopes up, there’s a cap of £10 on the amount you can be reimbursed for.

Not sure it’ll do much to halt the devastation unleashed in the hospitality sector by the lockdown. Even Burger King has announced closures and redundancies.

Stop Press: If you put on even more pounds as a result of Rishi’s meal deals, you can at least now go to the gym.

Couples Told to Wear Face Masks During Sex

Love is in the air – but so is something else!

According to the New York Post, a new study out of Harvard recommends couples should mask-up before having sex – and not for kinky pleasure.

Safe sex during the coronavirus pandemic might soon require protection beyond just the nether regions.

A new study from researchers at Harvard University says that hooking up carries some risk for transmitting COVID-19 from one partner to the other and recommends — among other practices — wearing a face mask while doin’ it.

The research, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, ranked frisky situations based on how likely it is to catch coronavirus while in the act. Researchers recommend wearing a mask for the riskiest sexual scenario: sex with people other than those with whom one is quarantined.

Meanwhile, American DJ Dan Bongino reacts to mandatory mask wearing in Martin County, Florida by saying: “You can take your mask mandate and shove it right up your ass.”

Is that after or before the mask-wearing sex?

Government Spent £10 Billion on Bungled Track-and-Trace Scheme

“Check out my new phone. Only cost £10 billion.”

Blimey! Wondering where all that Government money has gone? Now we know.

Documents released on Tuesday revealed that the Treasury has spent an extra £48.5 billion on public services since the coronavirus outbreak. Of this, £31.9 billion went to the NHS – including the £15 billion for PPE and £10 billion on Matt Hancock’s failed track-and-trace scheme.

The Mail has the story:

Ministers spent an astonishing £10 billion on the bungled test and trace programme as part of an extra £48 billion of spending on public services during the coronavirus crisis, it has emerged.

The programme was championed by Health Secretary Matt Hancock when introduced at the end of May but, as of last week, it is still failing to track a quarter of patients who test positive for the illness.

Scientists have warned contact tracing programmes need to catch at least 80 per cent of infections to ensure the spread of the virus is contained.

Earlier this week, Baroness Dido Harding, who is charge of the programme, admitted it is still is not hitting Government targets – but claimed it is ‘not far away’.

She said more work needs to be done to build up public confidence in the tracing system and the expected app, because neither will work without people’s co-operation. She said people’s trust must be earned rather than expected.

Every time you think the Government couldn’t have bungled its handling of this crisis more badly, there’s another shocking revelation. This one will be hard to top though.

Bad Luck Zealots: Sweden is Virtually Covid Free

These three graphs tell a story lockdown zealots don’t want to hear: Covid has all but disappeared in Sweden.

Covid Catch-22

John Waters, the Simon Dolan of Ireland, has written a great piece for Lockdown Sceptics about the difficulty he and Simon have faced in challenging the constitutionality of the suspension of our liberties. In both cases, the judge shot them down on the grounds that there was nothing disproportionate about the laws and regulations introduced to minimise the loss of life likely to be caused by the virus because, at the time, the Government didn’t know how virulent and deadly COVID-19 was. In other words, so long as a government is able to show that there is some possibility, however slight, that its draconian restrictions will save lives, they there is nothing unconstitutional about suspending our liberties.

Since before the present Irish Constitution was framed in 1937, and right up to a Supreme Court ruling as recently as 2011, the courts were adamant that an emergency, with or without a capital E, could only be declared in the circumstances set out in Article 28 of that Constitution. The lockdown legislation therefore created all kinds of new precedents, which, if left to lie, would in effect allow the Constitution of Ireland to be suspended for almost any kind of crisis, thereby transforming said Constitution from a Bill of Rights to a Charter for Occasional Totalitarianism. As far as I know, Japan is the only place where fundamental constitutional rights have prevailed in the face of COVID-19-related attacks, though Sweden’s robust constitutional principles, too, may have contributed to the more relaxed approach to managing the virus there.

Depressing, but worth reading in full.

Passport Misery

I haven’t been able to renew my 15 year-old son’s passport, so have had to arrange for him to stay with a friend while the Young family heads off to the Dolomites next week. Before you think “what a bastard!” I should point out that he’s extracted a heavy price for allowing us to go – a brand new desktop computer. He’s as happy as Larry. Thank you HM Passport Office.

Turns out, I’m not the only one. Lockdown Sceptics contributor Guy de la Bédoyère has had a hard time trying to get a passport for his grandson.

My grandson was born in Hanoi in December. My son and his wife are both British-born citizens and are employed by the British Council. In Vietnam such a baby is classified as a foreigner and is not entitled to Vietnamese citizenship by birth. Nor do his parents want that. In January they applied for the British passport to which he is entitled. The cumbersome process has to be conducted through the Visa Application Centre in Hanoi to which the UK Passport Office has subcontracted the administration of such applications in cities abroad.

The piles of supporting documents, including my grandson’s vital birth certificate, were all gathered up and sent by courier to the UK. Once those were scrutinized an online interview was booked for late March which my son would have had to attend in Hanoi in order to speak to a passport officer in the UK. This was the process he went through for his daughter two years previously.

Guess what? The interview was cancelled along with all other such interviews. Here we are now more than three months later and although the Visa Application Centre has re-opened in Hanoi these interviews have still not been reinstated (as they have not for applicants in the UK). It has taken my son weeks and weeks to get hold of a passport officer in the UK on the phone in order to find a way to get the documents returned. By law in Vietnam they are not supposed to travel anywhere with the baby without those documents – or a passport! With any luck those might turn up in a few weeks now. But of the passport – apparently for the moment: no chance.

I used a Twitter account to send a direct message on his account to the Passport Office. It took over a week to reply and added nothing.

The result is that my grandson who is entitled by right of his parents to UK citizenship is presently stateless. The Passport Office’s failure to use any common sense at least to instigate the return of documents that have been checked have placed him and his parents in a precarious position.

How many other children born abroad to UK citizen parents in the last seven months are in the same situation? There must be older children whose applications were also only made in the first quarter of this year who are similarly rendered stateless.

It hardly needs adding that of course the Passport Office is in possession of the application fees paid. Yet another example of the countless services that have been suspended since the crisis broke, leaving clients effectively robbed of the money on the nebulous promise that things will return to normal at some unspecified point in the future.

Here’s the real and truly idiotic irony. At no point in the process would it ever have been necessary for my son to be in the same room as a UK passport officer. Since Vietnam is entirely back to normal, and has been for several weeks, all he needed to do was to attend the Hanoi Centre and be shown into a room with a computer.

What’s going on? The answer seems to be a shortage of UK Passport Office staff who have been hived off to deal with matters like universal credit applications. Perhaps that’s more important, but I find the sheer stupidity and negligence of holding on to vital personal documents indefinitely almost unbelievable. It’s a whole new facet of the mounting backlog of administration and frustrated impotent anxiety this ludicrous self-inflicted crisis is generating.

And it’s not just Guy and me, obviously. Check out the comments in this forum – it’s an unending stream of passport misery.

Stop Press: Guy has been back in touch with some good news – sort of.

Incredibly, my son reports to me to today that HM Passport Office is now accepting new applications through the Hanoi Visa Application Centre, despite the unfulfilled existing pile of applications which must be the size of a small mountain and which they have no current plans to deal with.

Hugo Rifkind’s Bedwetting Column

Hugo Rifkind reacts to a member of the public breaking the two-metre rule

Times “humourist” Hugo Rifkind has made a strong bid for the Bedwettter-of-the-week award in his latest column entitled “In your face rulebreakers are out of control”. Here’s a taster:

Looking at those pictures of the Soho crowds, however nationally atypical they may have been, I found myself wondering how it happens. Is it like the wisdom of crowds, but the opposite? As in, is there a threshold of non-observance you need to reach before everybody else just thinks, “ah, screw it, why be different, I’ll have another drink and worry about potentially killing hundreds of people including my own grandmother tomorrow”?

We are all free to risk our own health by overdrinking or overeating or overscubadiving, or whatever, but responsible behaviour in a pandemic is not just about us. It speaks to a sort of social responsibility that is, or at least should be, literally step one in civilised behaviour.

Thankfully, there are some sceptics in the comments below Hugo’s piece:

The bottom line Hugo is that most people now know that Covid doesn’t threaten them. They’re not that worried if they get it. And they’re right to think that because the truth (that the Government doesn’t like to publicise) is that your chances of dying from Covid or even being seriously ill from it are minuscule unless you are in a very small subset of the population that is vulnerable. And it’s that dawning realisation that coronavirus isn’t Ebola or Smallpox or Bubonic Plague, combined with an increasing suspicion that the authorities have both overreacted and been incompetent, that leads to a little rebellion, an urge to regain control of your own decisions and risk assessment. And my guess is that the more the busybodies exhort people to wear a mask or keep you distance or keep working from home, the more likely it is they won’t.

I like the word “busybodies”. Hugo is a bit of a busybody.

At the end of his column, Hugo says the public’s failure to comply with every jot and tittle of the advice of finger-wagging scolds like him has left him worried that they may not comply when it comes to the advice of other metropolitan busybodies concerning things like global warming.

Covid is a unique crisis but it is also the template for every crisis, from tax avoidance, to funding health and social care, to the big looming horror of environmental collapse. Over and again, I read that this crisis was a dress rehearsal and a test, and that humanity was on a learning curve. We are all each other, all intertwined, all responsible for attuning our own behaviour for the greater good. What a shame, though, that we keep forgetting.

Not sure that’s quite the “shame” you think it is Hugo.

Fancy a Beer? Go to Marston’s

Top tip from a reader in Upminster about his experience at his local, a Marston’s pub.

I arrived at the pub at 11am to find that it was opening an hour later at midday. As a result, I walked to a pub a fair distance away – The Huntsman – which had a large banner up saying “WE ARE OPEN”. They lied – they weren’t.

I walked back and as it was 11.40am had to do something I’d never done before in my life and bought a can of beer in a shop and sat in the park across from the pub until I could get a beer.

When the pub opened up the awful experience that I was expecting never occurred. Sharon the pub manager and all the staff were unmasked, unafraid and had the pub running with the common sense lacking in most parts of this country at the moment.

Apart from a few tables being removed from the centre of the pub and a couple of arrows on the floor, you got your beer at the bar.

The people serving were friendly not jobsworths and they were having conversations with the customers that had been put on hold for three months for no good reason other than state-induced fear and global mass hysteria.

I would say to any pub man or woman who doesn’t wish to be treated like a leper while having a beer, find your nearest Marston’s. Stuff the abnormal New Normal and enjoy a beer in a real pub atmosphere. And they haven’t put the price up!

Round-Up

And on to the round-up of all the stories I’ve noticed, or which have been been brought to my attention, in the last 24 hours:

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A few weeks ago, Lockdown Sceptics launched a searchable directory of open businesses across the UK. The idea is to celebrate those retail and hospitality businesses that have re-opened, as well as help people find out what has opened in their area. But we need your help to build it, so we’ve created a form you can fill out to tell us about those businesses that have opened near you. Now that non-essential shops have re-opened – or most of them, anyway – we’re now focusing on pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants, as well as other social venues. As of July 4th, many of them have re-opened too, but not all. Please visit the page and let us know about those brave folk who are doing their bit to get our country back on its feet. Don’t worry if your entries don’t show up immediately – we need to approve them once you’ve entered the data.

Note to the Good Folk Below the Line

I enjoy reading all your comments and I’m glad I’ve created a “safe space” for lockdown sceptics to share their frustrations and keep each other’s spirits up. But please don’t copy and paste whole articles from papers that are behind paywalls in the comments. I work for some of those papers and if they don’t charge for premium content they won’t survive.

I know it becomes difficult to navigate the comment threads after 24 hours. One alternative to continuing to post below my updates is to move to the forum on Lockdown Truth. The creator of that site has extended a warm welcome to everyone here.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the last 48 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. It usually takes me several hours to do these updates, which doesn’t leave much time for other work. If you feel like donating, however small the amount, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here. (Please don’t email me at any other address.) I’ll try and get another update done on Saturday.

And Finally…

In my Spectator column this week I’ve asked whether the curriculum in English schools really needs “decolonising”. Here’s an extract:

Listening to the politicians and activists urging schools to “decolonise the curriculum”, you’d think children were being taught about the “white man’s burden” and re-enacting Gordon of Khartoum’s defence of Sudan in the playground. Even in the Tom Brown’s School Days era, I doubt the curriculum was ever as pro-Empire as these people would have us believe. At the last general election, 85 per cent of teachers voted for left-of-centre parties. Do the Black Lives Matter protestors really think these hand-wringing liberals are getting children to measure skulls in biology classes?

You think I’m exaggerating? A whistleblower sent me a memo on “decolonising the curriculum” that had been distributed to all the teachers at a secondary school in Haringey. The headteacher asked them to ensure that “the curriculum diet offered our students in terms of anti-racism, anti-fascism, anti-prejudice, is broad, thorough, comprehensive across year groups, faculty areas and times of the year”. And woe betide any member of staff who challenges the idea that schools are perpetuating a system of white supremacy. A teacher at an academy in south-east London has got in touch with the Free Speech Union because he’s being put through a ‘disciplinary’ after writing a blog post criticising the violence of some of the BLM protestors.

Worth reading in full, obviously.