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Postcard From Dystopialand

The Covid dragon prepares to breath virus particles on any visitors not wearing masks

I’ve had a very busy day and unfortunately don’t have time to do a proper update. So I thought I’d just publish this marvellous postcard I’ve received from Disneyland Paris. Disneyland has become Dystopialand.

We all need a little normalcy in our lives. And a little fun. Hence, with lockdowns threatening to make a comeback in the winter months, it was quickly determined in our household that it was now or never to get our fill of the Disney themepark experience. It is still not popularly acknowledged, but such attractions are genuinely at risk of permanent closure due to the appalling economics associated with low capacity operations. I had run the numbers on the airline sector. They were bad enough. But theme parks like Disneyland were equally vulnerable. (Do see South Park’s Cartmanland episode to get the basic idea). V-shape or no v-shape recovery, the economic damage is such that in the long run only government bailouts or nationalisation are likely to preserve such assets. A nationalised Disneyland, however, is not something I can realistically stomach. And so it was we decided to set off to Paris and bear the consequences of quarantine.

Unfortunately, what we encountered upon arrival was worse than anything I could ever have anticipated. Disneyland Paris is no more. What used to be a beaming beacon of American enlightenment values, liberty and human potential has been radically shifted and morphed into the exact opposite. Disney is now dystopialand. A corporate conditioning exercise promoting the new normal. Merchandised, to boot. Which means you get to go to dystopia and keep the face mask.

Annoyingly, I’d missed the clues to Disney’s capitulation to this state of affairs. Or the scale of the dystopia they were now peddling.

A few weeks ago Disney had put out some exceptionally creepy mask-ridden propaganda in a bid to present the illusion things were business as usual. I only caught the video once we were already here. (Had I seen it before I might have saved myself the €1000.)

My rationale for going had instead been misguided by an absolutely delightful trip to Peppa Pig World earlier in August where normalcy, common sense and fun had properly prevailed. Plus, I had wrongly assumed that outdoor mask-wearing, while recommended, would somehow be rationally and compassionately enforced.

How wrong I was.

There is nothing quite like the Disneyland experience in France, a country that is now enforcing mask-wearing everywhere, to make you realise the extent to which the rule has absolutely nothing to do with virus suppression and everything to do with social control, population conditioning and the normalisation of a Nazi-like mentality among those entrusted to police the standard. And that, really, is what’s truly frightening.

Control is asserted via a hierarchal top-down formation.

At the top of the pyramid lie the mouse gestapo – intimidating-looking private security guards bearing what appear to be either guns or at a minimum a taser arsenal. They monitor the outdoor areas demanding full compliance with the company’s mask-wearing protocol at all times. The usual exemptions that work in Britain simply do not apply. Don’t bother telling a stormtrooper you have asthma or a visceral fear of masks. You will be escorted out of the park pronto. The only exemption comes by way of a signed off medical release which entitles a visitor to a coloured exemption wristband. No wristband, no exemption.

The active enforcement of this standard on people simply peeking their noses out while walking many metres apart is what’s really gut wrenching. If the stormtroopers don’t get you, it will be the park employees that do – they’re the next down in the structural enforcement order. “EXCUSE ME!” they shout, if they spot a stray nostril. “Please put on your mask properly. It must be worn over your mouth and nose at all times or else it is not effective and you will put other visitors in danger.” The shaming is very loud, clear and self-righteous.

Eating and drinking is a key park revenue generator. So there’s obviously an exemption for that. But here is where even greater madness lies.

Word from staff is that after outdoor mask wearing was first mandated, people were buying bottles of water and carrying them around to avoid the masks. But this is now verboten. A mask must be maintained on your chin – literally, on your chin – at all times even if you are walking and drinking or eating. The only time you can remove it is while sitting down to eat or drink (or in the privacy of the public conveniences).

The walking rule is perhaps the most egregious example of the disingenuous norms at hand. If this was really about virus control nobody would be encouraging people to keep a mask on their chin while scoffing popcorn or ice cream.

Defiance of the system however is hard. I had brought visors with us. But they were also soon deemed verboten and “dangerous”. We then thought a good workaround might be the consumption of lollipops. That worked okay for a while, but eventually the sugar intake began to take its toll. And even then you could feel the watchers – i.e. all the other visitors – judging you all the time. The watchers represent the final rung of the enforcement pyramid. It is they who ultimately give the control system its strength. The system works because even those who don’t believe in masks end up watching everyone else, just to ensure they are not being unfairly disadvantaged by others who are getting away with not wearing them.

All of this leads to a highly dystopic and sinister experience. The reality is that without the feedback of smiles or happy expressions, there is no fun or laughter to be had. The human spirit is highly sensitised to such feedback. Without it, everything becomes miserable. All there is is permanent scrutiny of others and dutiful compliance with orders. It’s a process-oriented experience focused on working your way through the rides. You become an automaton. De-sensitised. Disempowered.

After the sixth or seventh time of being told off for not wearing a mask properly, you begrudgingly begin to conform just for the sake of some peace and quiet. And then you realise this is exactly how liberty dies and how everything we as humans value in life becomes eroded. You also realise this is undoubtedly the same process by which perfectly normal people allowed Nazism to take root in their communities.

When this realisation sinks in all you can do to stay sane is try to identify other potential allies who might rally to your cause in the event you finally lose your shit. Look there, you think to yourself, that chap has his nose out! Quickly, give him a look of knowing support and solidarity. Oh darn it, he thinks you’re scolding him because you can’t effectively express solidarity with the power of eyebrows alone. It is then you realise the dissidents in the park need their own secret way of signalling to each other. Ah ha! The Winnie the Pooh balloon. Surely that’s the most effective show of disdain for authoritarianism at Disneyland? But does anyone else get the Xi Jengping reference? How about hanging around the liberty court on Main Street in quiet protest against authoritarianism bearing said Winnie the Pooh balloon? If only we dissidents could get the message out.

Oh bugger, you then realise, even Winnie’s been repressed. There he is caged off in a character safe-space because a full-on character hazmat suit has been deemed not enough to protect workers from the hazard that are masked-up parents with children. Mickey, Donald, Minnie, Pluto – they are all caged or cordoned off.

That’s the sadness of it all. It’s not just that they’ve cancelled all the character meet ups, all the parades and all the fireworks. It’s that even when you are taking a selfie five metres away from Donald Duck or Mickey Mouse you get scolded for the audacity of trying to take a maskless picture. This surely is insanity?

Other mad procedures in play include no housekeeping, no room service and no buffets. Many rides and shows remain closed or not operational, and half of the park’s hotels never opened to begin with. Not that there are any significant discounts!

To sum up: Don’t go to Disneyland Paris. The magic is gone. Disneyland is now a horror show.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Two today: “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” by Bob Dylan and “There Aint No Sanity Clause” by The Damned

Love in the Time of Covid

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of attention. We’ve also just introduced a section where people can arrange to meet up for non-romantic purposes. We have a team of moderators in place to remove spam and deal with the trolls, but sometimes it takes a little while so please bear with us. You have to register to use the Forums, but that should just be a one-time thing. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

Sign spotted outside an English pub

A few 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 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 (and some of them are at risk of having to close again). 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! If they’ve made that clear to customers with a sign in the window or similar, so much the better. Don’t worry if your entries don’t show up immediately – we need to approve them once you’ve entered the data.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

We’ve created a permanent slot down here for people who want to buy (or make) a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and it has the advantage of not explicitly claiming you have a disability. But if you have no qualms about that (or you are disabled), you can buy a lanyard from Amazon saying you do have a disability/medical exemption here (now showing it will arrive between Oct 9th to Oct 19th). The Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. You can get a “Hidden Disability” tag from ebay here and an “exempt” card with lanyard for just £3.99 from Etsy here.

Don’t forget to sign the petition on the UK Government’s petitions website calling for an end to mandatory face nappies in shops here (now over 31,500).

A reader has started a website that contains some useful guidance about how you can claim legal exemption.

And here’s a round-up of the scientific evidence on the effectiveness of mask (threadbare at best).

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the past 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. Doing these daily updates is a lot of work (although not so much today). If you feel like donating, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links we should include in future updates, email us here. (If you want us to link to something, don’t forget to include a link).

And Finally…

This satirical squib by a YouTuber calling herself WhatsHerFace is brilliant. Not sure who she is, but she’s a committed lockdown sceptic and has a razor-sharp tongue. Not everything she does is intended to be funny. In this video, she lets Kim-Jong Dan have it with both barrels.

How Likely is a Second wave?

Paul Kirkham, Professor of cell Biology and Head of Respiratory Disease Research Group at Wolverhampton University

Dr Mike Yeadon, former CSO and VP, Allergy and Respiratory Research Head with Pfizer Global R&D and co-Founder of Ziarco Pharma Ltd

Barry Thomas, Epidemiologist

Contents

Executive Summary
Background
Mortality and critical care
A complete event of the pandemic
Epidemic outbreaks
Population susceptibility
Immunity threshold
The PCR Test
Expectations of a second wave
Spain and France
References

Executive Summary

Evidence presented in this paper indicates that the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 pandemic as an event in the UK is essentially complete, with ongoing and anticipated challenges well within the capacity of a normalised NHS to cope. The virus infection has passed through the bulk of the population as a result of wholly natural processes and evidence indicates that in the UK and other heavily infected European countries the spread of the virus has been all but halted by a substantial reduction in the susceptible population. This has occurred because the level of infection required to introduce enough immunity into the population to reduce the reproduction number (R) permanently below 1 occurred at markedly lower infection rates and loss of life than had been initially anticipated. The evidence presented in this paper indicates that there should be no expectation of a large scale ‘second wave’ with smaller localised outbreaks when the virus contacts pockets of previously uninfected populations.

Current mass testing using the PCR test is inappropriate in its current form. If it is to continue, then results and reporting should be refined to meet the gold standard of testing methodology to give clinicians improved information so that they are able to make appropriate clinical decisions. Positive tests should be confirmed by testing a second sample and all positive tests should be reported along with the Cycle Threshold (Ct) obtained during the test to aid assessment of a patient’s viral load.

It is recommended that a greater focus be placed on evidence-based medicine rather than highly sensitive theoretical modelling based on assumptions and unknowns. Current evidence allows for a greatly improved understanding of positive infectious patients and using the evidence to improve measurements and understanding can lead to sensitive measurements of active cases to give a more accurate warning of escalating cases and potential issues and outbreaks.

Background

Based upon guidance from NHS England, our primary and secondary care service across the country are currently following protocols to limit access to care due to the dangers of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19) pandemic. Whilst work has begun to restore NHS services (the “restoration”), there remains a strong focus on preparing for a second wave as implied by the Imperial College epidemiological model designed by Professor Neil Ferguson and his team. While this model may have had some limited value when we were faced with a novel virus outbreak, the evidence that has emerged over recent months along with detailed analysis of previous outbreaks implies that the model that is still being followed is unreliable and not consistent with both previously measured systems and current evidence. This paper outlines the evidence and data we have gathered to support a change in focus to further expedite the return of both primary and secondary care to full capacity.

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly allowed for some very positive and rapid changes within NHS pathways, protocols and services which should be maintained. However, the current reduction in delivered primary care activity, referrals and elective care gives concern as to the degree of ‘collateral damage’ being caused in patients not receiving the diagnostic and ensuing care they should be receiving at the earliest possible stage of intervention. While there has been a very specific focus on the cancer and cardiology services, similar negative impacts can be seen across most services with, for example, neurological, dermatological and renal patients all presenting with more severe disease due to delays in receiving both diagnosis and treatment.

Mortality and Critical Care

National weekly mortality data is useful for looking at the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. The past four years data were used for comparison purposes and to calculate upper and lower control limits (based on two standard deviations).

This shows that in the pandemic peak (April 17th to 30th) more than twice the number of seasonal average deaths occurred, with the number of deaths above the upper control limit from March 27th through to June 12th, totalling 44,895 excess deaths. Since June 26th the number of weekly deaths has now fallen so it is not only below the weekly average but has regularly dropped below the lower control limit, showing that we are now at the lowest number of weekly deaths recorded in many years.

Over the last three months since lockdown measures started easing on the May 10th there has been no increase in weekly deaths. On the contrary, these have continued to fall.

Another useful measure of disease impact is the Adult Critical Care Bed Occupancy which showed a peak in bed demand between April 7th and 23rd with the number of patients occupying critical care beds significantly higher than our national baseline capacity. However, by the end of May the occupancy had dropped back to pre-COVID-19 levels, well below the national baseline capacity and has shown no statistical change since.

Restrictions have been progressively eased across the country for over three months. A continuation of the virus would be expected to manifest itself as an increase in both Critical Care bed occupancy and national All-Causes Mortality statistics. This has not been the case in either critical indicator.

A Complete Event of the Pandemic

There are very good reasons to believe that the population of the UK and of many heavily infected countries have arrived at a position where the prevalence of the virus is low and probably falling further because the reproduction number (R) has been below 1 for several months. We understand the term ‘herd immunity’ can raise hackles in some quarters of the media. However, it might be more acceptably expressed by stating that the proportion remaining of the population who are susceptible to the virus has fallen sufficiently far that a sustained and growing outbreak of disease is no longer supported. This end state is not at all new or, in our view, controversial. It is how mammals – specifically jawed vertebrates – learned to live with the thousands of viruses that infect every living organism on the planet, not just us, but even plants, fungi and bacteria.

We are of the view that a continued focus primarily on the virus flows from responding to what we are concerned is a seriously flawed transmission model. We are told that only seven per cent of the population have antibodies to the virus and it is implied that this represents the proportion of the population who have so far been infected. The model assumes that we started with 100% susceptibility, because the virus is new, therefore the virus hasn’t gone away and must sooner or later return. This is the basis of all the second wave fears we hear about.

However, we do not believe the model is correct and our assertions and inferences are based upon recently published science, some in highly eminent journals and some by researchers in pre-review online servers which have this year become crucial in keeping pace with emerging science.

While published data on deaths ‘with’ COVID-19 is dependent on testing regimes and therefore liable to inaccuracy due to missing information – for example undetected asymptomatic patients – the data does allow a sound approximation of the flow of the outbreak. Inspecting the daily COVID-19 deaths vs. time curve for the UK we see a Gompertz-type curve (Rypdal and Rypdal, 2020) which are typical of natural, biological phenomena, well documented in biomedical scientific papers over the last 40 years. Note the lack of discontinuities in the curve, suggesting no effective interventions have interrupted its development.

Epidemic Outbreaks

The Gompertz-type plot seen above, which is formed by a single surge in activity, often followed by smaller minor upturns as the disease reaches new populations is typical of previous virus outbreaks that have been well documented, none of which have demonstrated a significant second wave even though control methods were used to prevent the spread of disease in each case.

For example, below we see in the MERS CoV outbreak of 2015 what appears to be a significant double wave. However, it is actually multiple single waves affecting geographically distinct populations at different times as the disease spreads. In this case the first major peak was seen in Saudi Arabia with a second peak some months later in the Republic of Korea. Analysed individually, each area followed a typical single event Gompertz curve.

Similarly, when we look at the SARS outbreak of 2003 the initial identification of an apparent double wave when looking at world wide data is actually multiple single events or waves in disparate locations each following the typical Gompertz-type curve.

Population Susceptibility

It is now established that at least 30% of our population already had immunological recognition of this new virus, before it even arrived (Le Bert et al, 2020; Braun et al, 2020; Grifoni et al, 2020). COVID-19 is new, but coronaviruses are not. There are at least four well characterised family members (229E, NL63, OC43 and HKU1) which are endemic and cause some of the common colds we experience, especially in winter. They all have striking sequence similarity to the new coronavirus. A major component our immune systems is the group of white blood cells called T-cells whose job it is to memorise a short piece of whatever virus we were infected with so the right cell types can multiply rapidly and protect us if we get a related infection. Responses to COVID-19 have been shown in dozens of blood samples taken from donors before the new virus arrived. The most recent paper by Mateus et al (2020) was published in the journal Science in August and supports the previous findings of Le Bert et al (2020). Importantly, only Mateus performed detailed epitope mapping and found that epitopes present in each of the known endemic coronaviruses share sequence homology or close similarity to those in the new virus. Prior to this, three other groups including immunologists in Germany, Sweden and the USA each independently published similar findings (refs as above and discussed in Sewell, 2020). These papers showed this pre-immunity is geographically widespread and prevalent within each population studied, but it was only the Mateus paper that gave us the understanding as to why and how. It had previously been suggested that pre-pandemic immune responses in circulating T-cells might have occurred following exposure to one or more of the endemic coronaviruses. Mateus, by using parts of these endemic coronaviruses which also exist within COVID-19 confirmed this.

We understand that objections might be raised about the clinical correlates of this T-cell recognition. While that is a fair challenge, it would be unreasonable to dismiss it and assume is has no relevance. This is because this is how T-cell memory works (for example, Ling et al, 2020 show that convalescent COVID-19 patients analogously display exactly these T-cell responses) and more importantly because we have solid evidence in the case of SARS that those expressing T-cell recognition of that coronavirus were resistant to it. In a study of 23 people who survived SARS in 2003, every single one had memory T-cells that recognised the SARS virus 17 years later. (Le Bert et al, 2020). The T-cell response was consistent with measurements taken after vaccination with approved vaccines for other viruses. As important, these T-cell responses also develop even in recovering patients infected with the new virus but who were asymptomatic (Sekine et al, 2020).

In conclusion, we believe it is reasonable to take from this body of work that those displaying vigorous T-cell responses to this family of coronaviruses are resistant to or immune from infection. They are distinct from the others in the population who do not have these T-cell responses and are therefore susceptible to a new virus.

Immunity Threshold

Transmission models, such as the one used by the Imperial team, are highly sensitive to the input parameters they are based on and we argue that a modification of the current model should be applied with, at most, 70% initial population susceptibility. This is a conservative value since current literature finds that between 20% and 50% of the population display this pre-pandemic T-cell responsiveness, meaning we could adopt an initially susceptible population value from 80% to 50%. The lower the real initial susceptibility, the more secure we are in our contention that a herd immunity threshold (HIT) has been reached.

However, our concerns with the Imperial model are not limited solely to T-cell memory mediated reduction in initial susceptibility. This is because there are factors other than T-cell mechanisms which alter a person’s susceptibility to the virus. We now know that children, especially young children, appear harder to infect and/or they are less affected by the virus. To do us harm, viruses need to get inside our cells. To do that, they exploit as ‘grappling hooks’ receptors on the outside of those cells – in the case of the new virus, and at high speed, scientists determined it is an enzyme called ACE2. It turns out that the levels of ACE2 are highest in adults and much lower in children, becoming progressively lower the younger they are (Lingappan et al, 2020). That is a fortunate finding indeed, and goes some way in explaining why children have been relatively spared. In addition, other groups have shown that infectivity is significantly reduced in individuals with the O-blood group (Wu et al, 2020; Ellinghaus et al, 2020). There are approximately eight million children aged 0-10 in the UK and 12.7 million aged 0-15. These cohorts represent approximately 11.9% and 19% of the UK population, respectively

Taking this into account it is, in total, at least 35%, and likely to be significantly more of the population who are resistant or immune to the virus, meaning that they will neither get ill nor participate significantly in viral transmission (Lee, 2020). This is crucial to understanding where we are with respect to the epidemic in the UK and the potential for a second wave of infections.

The proportion of the population that need to be resistant to an infection, in order to stop it spreading, depends on the proportion who were originally susceptible and the initial reproduction number, or R0. If 100% truly were susceptible, then epidemiology suggests that 65% would have to be infected for the herd immunity threshold to be reached, given the initial estimates of R0. That would have resulted in very many more deaths than have been measured. But if, as we are now reasonably sure, a much lower initial percentage was susceptible, it takes far fewer people to catch the virus before there are too few susceptible people remaining within the population for the virus to be able to find the next person to infect.

Recent seroprevalence studies, which measure the proportion of the population displaying antibodies to the novel virus, are widely assumed to show the proportion of the population which has been infected. However, the observation that, for example, only 17% of Londoners have antibodies is not the same as saying only 17% have been infected (though the media often wrongly assumes it does). It is important to appreciate that much of the early serological studies were conducted on hospitalised patients who, by definition, are the most ill cohort. In such patients the majority do seroconvert (eg Theel et al, 2020). In mildly symptomatic and asymptomatic patients, a lower proportion seroconvert (Long et al, 2020). This is because the antibody system is but one of several tools our immunology has to defend us. There have been a number of papers illustrating this important principle. Long et al (2020) find that almost half of previously infected individuals are no longer seropositive a few months later. Gallais (2020) shows that none of the familial contacts of those testing positive to SARS-CoV-2 went onto to develop antibodies.

A reasonable hypothesis is that the lower intensity of immunological challenges tends to rely less on the generation of antibodies and more on innate and cellular responses. This means that a factor of two-fold and possibly higher would need to be applied to population serology data in order to better approximate the infected population. If 7% is the mean for UK, then perhaps 14-21% of the population has actually been infected (which would imply, very approximately, 9-14 million people infected). The authors recognise that the exact number in this example is speculative, but conversations with immunologists indicate that this principle is widely accepted as reasonable for community infection where viral load varies widely and contrasts markedly with seroconversion after vaccination, where the goal is close to 100%.

Interestingly, this question of what percentage of the population have been infected can be approached using a different methodology. Numerous estimates have been made of the infection fatality ratio (IFR) for this new virus. Naturally, it varies depending on the population under study as well as the methodology used and, accordingly, researchers have arrived at a wide range of estimates for IFR. The Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine has done much work in this area and their current estimate is 0.1-0.4% (Oke and Heneghan, 2020). Let us take a midpoint value, especially as for months the US CDC displayed a value for IFR of 0.26% on their website. This implies that for every death from COVID-19, there were a preceding 100/0.26 or ~400 infections. The UK has suffered approximately 42,000 such deaths which, to a first approximation using IFR, implies 16.8million infections, or 25% of the population having been infected.

Consequently, two different and independent analytical approaches provide estimates that are at least in the same range for total population having been infected (overlapping at approximately 20%), and this is crucial in the argument put forward here. Other, theoretical epidemiological studies show that, with the extent of prior immunity that we can now reasonably assume to be the case, only 15-25% of the population being infected is sufficient to bring the spread of the virus to a halt (Lourenco, 2020; Gomez et al, 2020). Importantly, we emphasise there are additional schools of epidemiological work which show that variation in likelihood of becoming infected itself can greatly reduce the so-called herd immunity threshold and that this can be reached at even lower proportions of the population having been infected (e.g. Aguas, 2020).

We saw early on in the pandemic that the number of daily deaths rapidly soar and at that time did we not know where and when it would stop rising. It has been evidenced previously that the most easily infected people got infected earliest (see Gomez et al, 2020). Humans vary hugely, not only in our responses to viruses, but also in the ease or difficulty the virus experiences as it tries to invade us. The most susceptible were those already elderly and/or ill, some very ill, and so we saw very high death rates initially. Once that super-susceptible group were removed from the pool of susceptible individuals by the virus, it began a slower march through everyone else, slowing all the time, as the remaining population’s susceptibility fell continually towards the herd immunity threshold. That is where our evidence indicates we are now and why the virus is disappearing from the environment.

It is important to see this document in light of information available elsewhere in the world. It has widely been observed that in all heavily infected countries in Europe and several of the US states likewise, that the shape of the daily deaths vs. time curves is similar to ours in the UK. Many of these curves are not just similar, but almost super imposable. Italy, France, Spain, Sweden and the UK, for example (OWID, 2020). The shape of the deaths vs. time curve implies a natural process and not one resulting mainly from human interventions, given the widely varying non-pharmaceutical interventions in those countries. Taking this and applying it more widely, the very strong similarities of UK data with that of nearby countries which employed different responses yields another conclusion – that none of the interventions altered the broad course of the pandemic event. Further, it is reasonable to conclude that the pandemic event has ended in those countries, too. Famously, Sweden has adopted an almost laissez faire approach, with qualified advice given, but no generalised lockdowns. Yet its profile and that of the UK’s is very similar. The officials in Sweden appear to be of the view that their population has closely approached or in some places reached what they term herd immunity, with R persistently lower than 1.

The PCR Test

The PCR test for the virus is good enough to confirm infection in someone with symptoms. “Is it flu or is it COVID-19?” is a question easily answered. What it is very poor at, however, is what is being asked of it now, namely estimating the percentage of people who are currently infectious in the community. We do not know exactly what the false positive rate is, but it is widely believed to be greater than the actual, remaining prevalence of the virus (Heneghan, 2020), which is around 1:2000, or 0.05%. (ONS prevalence survey Aug 14th 2020). The result of continuing to use this test alone on a massive widescale screening program is inevitably to generate a high proportion of false positives. The problem of using any assay to conduct surveillance on a low prevalence virus with a PCR test has been widely discussed (Heneghan, 2020). Under present parameters, even accepting an unlikely 0.1% False Positive rate and a prevalence of 0.1%, more than half of the positives are likely to be false, potentially all of them. It is the opinion of the authors that the false positive rate is higher and the prevalence lower than this. Consequently, it is impossible for the positives to be much other than false. A recent letter to the British Medical Journal (Healy, 2020) exemplifies the extent of harm that actually arose in a setting in which all but one of the positives ended up being false positives. This resulted not only in considerable time and money wasted by surgeries, but also other medical issues being delayed. It is not rational and may even be dangerous to use these results to drive policy. Note that recent so-called ’spikes’ were never accompanied or followed by people getting ill, going to hospital and dying in elevated numbers. Consequently, it is possible that most of the positives from mass testing are either false positives or ‘cold positives’ (fragments of real virus which are not intact and incapable of replication or of causing disease or infecting others) and therefore begs the question of whether mass testing of patients without symptoms is in fact helpful or misleading? It may be of relevance to note that, on August 24th the US CDC changed its guidance on when PCR testing is appropriate. They now recommend not testing people with no symptoms who are not contacts in a contact-tracing activity.

There are practical alternatives to mass testing. For example, calls to the NHS111 service captures all reports of what is termed ‘influenza-like illness’. Change in this parameter is likely to be a much more sensitive measure of the presence of increasing prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 infection than flawed PCR testing without modifications. Obviously, and perhaps it has already happened, there is the potential for emerging influenza to complicate the picture. A modification to the strategy involving PCR testing which would easily resolve any uncertainty is this: every positive test result is followed up as quickly as possible, ideally within 24 hours of the positive result, and every one is retested. If this is done, almost all the false positives will be removed. We predict there would be few genuine positive results remaining. But even here, it is important to recall what it is that the PCR test measures, and it is simply the presence of partial RNA sequences present in the intact virus. This means that even a true positive does not necessarily indicate the presence of viable virus. In limited studies to date, many researchers have shown that some subjects remain PCR-positive long after the ability to culture virus from swabs has disappeared. We term this a ‘cold positive’ (to distinguish it from a ‘hot positive’, someone actually infected with intact virus). The key point about ‘cold positives’ is that they are not ill, not symptomatic, not going to become symptomatic and, furthermore, are unable to infect others. As each PCR test that is carried out returns the Cycle Threshold (Ct) used to obtain a positive result, it is important that this Ct is reported with every positive result. The Ct gives strong evidence of the viral load and aids clinicians in determining if a patient has a “hot” infectious positive result or a “cold” non-infectious positive result. Gniazdowski et al (2020) studied 161 positive PCR test samples with a Ct value below 23 that yielded 91.5% of virus isolates and the study showed a strong correlation between recovery of SARS-CoV-2 infectious virus on cell culture and Ct values. Ct values above 30 returned negative cultures in all except one case.

Expectations of a Second Wave

Daily deaths from and with COVID-19 have almost ceased, having fallen over 99% from peak. All the numbers monitored carefully fall like this, too: the numbers being hospitalised, numbers in hospital, number in intensive care – all are falling in synchrony from the April peak. Viral evidence historically tells us that you don’t generally get infected by the exact same virus twice, certainly not within a short period of time. It’d be a poor immune system which lets that happen and we’d probably not have made it as a species into the 21st century if that’s how it worked. So there’s an expectation of some duration of immunity. It needs studying, but our experience and evidence for coronaviruses (Le Bert et al, 2020) suggests that if you have memory T-cells, durability can be very long lasting. This study showed that people still had robust T-cell responses in 2020, 17 years after the first SARS outbreak back in 2003. The concerns people have expressed about falling antibody levels underscores a lack of knowledge about acquired immunity. It is not efficient nor required for immunity to maintain high levels of antibodies to everything to which you are immune. Instead, cellular memory enables very rapid re-generation of antibodies upon re-encounter with the antigen, if that is required to defend the host. Alternatively, innate and cellular memory responses can be sufficient.

The NHS currently remains ‘COVID-19 ready’ in preparation for an expected second wave, a highly unlikely scenario based upon an initial model with highly sensitive input variables that we already know to be inaccurate. The evidence we’ve presented leads us to believe there is unlikely to be a second wave and that while there have been apparent multi-‘wave’ respiratory viruses in the past, notably 1918-20, in many cases it became clear that this was either different populations being infected at different times or in some cases multiple different organisms involved. There is no biological principle that leads us to expect a second wave based on the accumulation of data over the past six months. Instead, it is likely there will be local, small and self-limiting mini-outbreaks as areas previously unexposed come into contact with the virus.

Spain and France

So what is happening in terms of second wave concerns in France and Spain? As the rate of hospitalisations, ICU utilisation and the daily death rate from COVID-19 all decayed steadily, it appears that several but not all countries have greatly expanded their testing capacity in the broader population of people who are not showing any symptoms of infection. We contend that the many claims in the media for outbreaks, spikes and second waves are all artefacts of amplified rates of testing. It should be noted that illness, hospitalisations and deaths have not reversed in any clear and sustained manner. Specifically, careful examination of the weekly all-causes mortality data in France is completely clear. Six weeks into an apparent surge of cases, the number of deaths remain completely flat and normal, in all age bands (as of mid-August when this document was written).

References

Aguas, et al (2020). Herd immunity thresholds for SARS-CoV-2 estimated from unfolding epidemics. medRxIV https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.07.23.20160762.

Braun, et al. (2020). Presence of SARS-CoV-2 reactive T cells in COVID-19 patients and healthy donors. medRxIV https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.04.17.20061440

Ellinghaus et al. (2020) Genomewide Association Study of Severe Covid-19 with Respiratory Failure. New Eng. J Med. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa2020283

Gallais, (2020). Intrafamilial exposure to SARS-CoV-2 induces cellular responses without seroconversion. medRxIV https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.06.21.20132449.

Gomez et al. (2020). Individual variation in susceptibility or exposure to SARS-CoV-2 lowers the herd immunity threshold. MedRxIV https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.04.27.20081893

Grifoni et al. (2020. Targets of T Cell Responses to SARS-CoV-2Coronavirus in Humans with COVID-19Disease and Unexposed Individuals. Cell 181, 1489–1501. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2020.05.015ll

Healy, B (2020). Covid-19 testing, low prevalence and the impact of false positives. Brit Med J. 2020;369:m1808.

Long, et al. (2020). Clinical and immunological assessments of asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infections. Nature Med 26, 1200-04.

Heneghan (2020). How many Covid diagnoses are false positives? The Spectator, July 20 2020.

Le Bert et al (2020) SARS-Cov-2 specific T cell immunity in cases of Covid19 and SARS and uninfected controls. Nature. Doi 10.1038/s41586-020-2550-z

Lee & Raszka (2020). COVID-19 transmission and children: the child is not to blame. Pediatrics, e2020004879 DOI: 10.1542/peds.2020-004879.

Ling, et al (2020). Detection of SARS-CoV-2-Specific Humoral and Cellular Immunity in COVID-19 Convalescent Individuals. Immunity 52(6), 971-77.

Lingappan et al (2020). Understanding the age divide in COVID-19: why are children overwhelmingly spared? Am. J. Physiol (Lung Cell Molec. Physiol) https://doi.org/10.1152/ajplung.00183.2020

Lourenco et al (2020). The impact of host resistance on cumulative mortality and the threshold of herd immunity for SARS-CoV-2. MedRxIV https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.07.15.20154294

Mateus et al (2020) Selective and cross-reactive SARS-CoV-2 T cell epitopes in unexposed humans. Science. DOI: 10.1126/science.abd3871

Oke& Heneghan (2020). Global Covid-19 Case Fatality Rates. https://www.cebm.net/covid-19/global-covid-19-case-fatality-rates/

June 9 2020 update.

ONS coronavirus survey (Aug 14 2020). https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/conditionsanddiseases/bulletins/coronaviruscovid19infectionsurveypilot/latest

OWID (our world in data: display UK, Sweden & France, confirmed daily deaths, log plot per million) https://ourworldindata.org/coronavirus-data-explorer?yScale=log&zoomToSelection=true&time=2020-03-02..latest&deathsMetric=true&interval=smoothed&aligned=true&perCapita=true&smoothing=7&country=TWN~GBR~SWE~FRA&pickerMetric=location&pickerSort=asc

Rypdal & Rypdal (2020) A parsimonious description and cross-country analysis of COVID-19 epidemic curves. https://arxiv.org/pdf/2008.02475.pdf

Sekine et al. (2020). bioRxiv preprint doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.06.29.174888.

Sewell, H. (2020). BMJ 2020;370:m3018.

Theel et al (2020). The Role of Antibody Testing for SARS-CoV-2: Is There One? J. Clin Microbiol, 28(8), 1-7.

Wu et al (2020) Association between ABO blood groups and COVID-19 infection, severity and demise: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Infection , Genetics and Evolution. Doi 10.1016/j.meegid.2020.104485

Wood (2020). Did COVID-19 infections decline before UK lockdown? https://arxiv.org/pdf/2005.02090.pdf

Gniazdowski V, Morris P, Wohl S et al. Repeat COVID-19 molecular testing: correlation with recovery of infectious virus, molecular assay cycle thresholds, and analytical sensitivity. medRxiv 2020.08.05.20168963; doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.08.05.20168963

Other Data sources and Reference

https://github.com/owid/covid-19-data/find/master

https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/news-events/epidemiological-update-middle-east-respiratory-syndrome-coronavirus-mers-cov-4

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2012_Middle_East_respiratory_syndrome_coronavirus_outbreak

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2002%E2%80%932004_SARS_outbreak

https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Severe-acute-respiratory-syndrome-epidemic-curve-in-Hong-Kong-2003-by-infection-cluster_fig1_8200905

https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Epidemic-curve-of-cases-of-severe-acute-respiratory-syndrome-by-date-of-onset-November_fig1_8501177

https://science.sciencemag.org/content/303/5664/1666

https://www.imperial.ac.uk/media/imperial-college/medicine/sph/ide/gida-fellowships/Imperial-College-COVID19-NPI-modelling-16-03-2020.pdf

https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/spain/

https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/france/

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public#number-of-tests

https://www.cebm.net/study/covid-19-testing-and-correlation-with-infectious-virus-cycle-thresholds-and-analytical-sensitivity/

Latest News

The UK’s “Second Wave” is a Costly Myth

Lockdown Sceptics contributor Will Jones has an excellent piece in the Conservative Woman about Matt Hancock’s mysterious obsession with a “second wave” and the ruinously expensive steps the Government is taking to prepare for this non-existent threat. Here’s his conclusion:

A lockdown that was brought in without precedent or planning for three weeks to ‘squash the sombrero’ and relieve peak pressure on the NHS is still going on five months later. We face a future of continued social distancing and unpredictable new restrictions that are socially debilitating and economically disastrous. Even the much-vaunted vaccine is very unlikely to do more than mitigate the impact of the illness, making it a likely false dawn for those waiting around for it.

Yet the World Health Organisation continues to call on governments to ‘do it all’ to ‘suppress, suppress, suppress’ the virus, holding up New Zealand as an ‘exemplar’. Britain, like Sweden, must reject this preposterous and nihilistic narrative. It is not possible to suppress this virus, as New Zealand is now discovering, but only to mitigate its impact while developing collective immunity and, ideally, returning to normal as quickly as possible. The measures introduced for this mitigation must be balanced against other risks and the high importance of normal, healthy living. Right now, the government does not even seem to be attempting a sensible cost-benefit analysis of its approach, working instead on the basis of a ‘reasonable worst-case scenario’ derived from discredited models. This is no way to run a country, nor a world.

Worth reading in full.

Up to 90% of People Who Test Positive Not Infectious

And this may explain why a rise in cases in countries like France, Spain and Italy hasn’t produced any corresponding rise in hospitalisations or deaths. According to a new study, up to 90% of people testing positive aren’t infectious. The Mail has more.

Up to 90 percent of people tested for COVID-19 in Massachusetts, New York and Nevada in July carried barely any traces of the virus and it could be because today’s tests are ‘too sensitive’, experts say.

Health experts say PCR testing – the most widely used diagnostic test for COVID-19 in the US – are too sensitive and need to be adjusted to rule out people who have insignificant amounts of the virus in their systems because they’re likely not contagious.

Today the PCR test, which provides a yes or no answer if a patient is infected, doesn’t say how much of the virus a patient has in their body.

The Mail‘s report is based on this story in the New York Times that we linked to a couple of days ago.

Four Charts Showing Casedemic Hasn’t Led to More Deaths

In case anyone thinks the rise in the number of people testing positive in Europe is cause for alarm, here are four charts showing cases and deaths in Italy, Spain, the UK and France.

Why Has Piers Corbyn Been Fined £10,000 But Not the Organisers of Sunday’s BLM Protest?

I got a lot of emails making this point yesterday:

I see Piers Corbyn gets arrested and fined £10,000 for “organising ” the anti-lockdown demo while Sunday’s BLM organisers “Ken Hinds, an adviser to Scotland Yard, Sasha Johnson, a youth worker and activist, rapper 2 Badda, and author Anthony Spencer” get away with “a word of advice”!

The Guardian has more on Sunday’s BLM protest here.

I disagree with almost everything Piers Corbyn has to say, but I would defend to the death his right to say it. You can contribute to his CrowdJustice fundraiser here.

Meanwhile, reader has put together a short film of Saturday’s protest.

Dispatch From Berlin

I’m publishing a “Postcard from Berlin” today that’s an account of attending the anti-lockdown protest on Saturday. My correspondent estimates a crowd of 150,000, nearly all of them sensible folk. Here’s an extract, giving you a sense of the sheer scale of the protest:

At 3.30pm the speeches started. By this point thousands of people were filling the entire length of the Straße des 17. Juni between the Victory Column and the Brandenburg Gate (2km), as well as Der Große Stern, the giant central square in the Tiergarten where the stage was set up. There were also huge numbers of protesters behind the Victory column on the Straße des 17. Juni heading west away from the Victory Column. Protesters spilled into the Tiergarten at the request of the organisers who announced several times that we needed to spread out into the garden or police would shut down the protest. Aerial footage shows the overwhelming crowds, but even this cannot show how many people were in the Tiergarten under the trees and in side streets. It took us over 25 minutes to walk from the Victory Column to the Brandenburg gate, and the whole street was full of protesters.

Worth reading in full.

Kim-Jong Dan Sued For Billions

Not laughing now, are you Mr Would-Be Dictator?

Daniel Andrews, the tyrannical leader of the state of Victoria in Australia, is facing a multi-billion-dollar class action suit from enraged local businessmen. Yahoo Finance AU has more.

The Victorian Government is facing a potential class action expected to be to the tune of several billion dollars brought by the businesses that have been shut down during the state’s stage four restrictions.

The class action is open to all Victorian-based businesses that were shut down after July 1st, according to an AFR report, and thousands are expected to take part.

The lawsuit is being launched by Sydney-based law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, who are known for successfully winning a class action against the Queensland Government after the November 2011 floods.

The class action also names Victorian Ministers Jenny Mikakos, Martin Pakula as well as their department secretaries.

The lead plaintiff for the case is the owner of a New York-themed restaurant, Anthony Ferrara, who normally earns tens of thousand dollars a week but is now only open for takeaway and making below $10,000 a week.

“Victorian businesses don’t need charity or kind thoughts from politicians,” Ferrara said.

“We need certainty and we need it soon. Our situation is not our doing. We are calling to account those who put us in this dire position.”

The owner of Melbourne CBD’s The Carlton Club, Windsor Castle and Gertrude Hotel, Tracey Lester, is also expected to join the class action.

More power to their elbow.

The Tyranny of Coronaphobia

Professor Ramesh Thakur, former Assistant-General Secretary of the UN and arch-sceptic

Professor Ramesh Thakur had a full page interview in La Nacion, one of Argentina’s two main newspapers, on August 23rd. The interview has now been published in English in the weekly Open Magazine, under the title “The Tyranny of Coronaphobia”.

Prof Thakur has sent me a summary of the points he made:

  • “Coronaphobia” has taken over as the basis of government policy in so many countries, with a complete loss of perspective that life is a balance of risks pretty much on a daily basis.
  • The extent to which dominant majorities of peoples in countries with universal literacy can be successfully terrified into surrendering their civil liberties and individual freedoms has come as a frightening shock. On the one hand, the evidence base for the scale and gravity of the COVID-19 pandemic is surprisingly thin in comparison to the myriad other threats to our health that we face every year. We don’t ban cars on the reasoning that every life counts and even one traffic death is one too many lives lost. Instead, we trade a level of convenience for a level of risk to life and limb.
  • On the other hand, the restrictions imposed on everyday life as we know it have been far more draconian than anything previously done. Yet, the evidence for the effectiveness of draconian lockdowns is less than convincing. As one Lancet study concluded, “Rapid border closures, full lockdowns, and wide-spread testing were not associated with COVID-19 mortality per million people.” The virus infection has not risen exponentially in any country; rather, it seems to climb steeply, stop, turn around and retreat almost everywhere in tune with some internal timeframe independently of government intervention strategies; and, differences in numbers of dead notwithstanding, the shape of the curve seems remarkably similar for many countries.
  • The coronavirus threatens to overwhelm the health and economies of many developing countries where a billion people subsist in a Hobbesian state of nature and life is “nasty, brutish and short”. The rich carry the virus, the poor bear the burden since staying at home means foregoing daily income.
  • I remain very puzzled at how so many people I considered to be liberals have been so utterly indifferent to the plight of the poor and the casual labourers who do not have the luxury of working from home, nor savings to fall back on to tide their family over until they can earn an income again.
  • This is not to say that high-income Western countries are immune from the deadly effects of lockdown.
  • I wonder, too, if we have set ourselves up to repeat the folly every year with annual outbreaks of flu, especially if it is a bad flu season. If not, why not? Perhaps someone will come up with the slogan “Flu Lives Matter”. Or governments could just pass laws making it illegal for anyone to fall sick and die.
  • I hope that after the crisis is over, the balance between individual liberties and state power will be re-set instead of an even more powerful surveillance state being consolidated.

Worth reading in full.

The COVID-19 Assembly

The man behind Lockdown Truth, a companion website, is starting something called the COVID-19 Assembly. We asked him to do a few paragraphs explaining what it is.

The purpose of the COVID-19 Assembly is to allow the people themselves to take control of the COVID-19 narrative rather than the government and the mainstream media. By bypassing the MSM we will undertake the job of getting the real facts out to the public. One of the biggest problems with the current situation is that there is very limited information that the average person will come across without specifically looking for it. Most people simply aren’t aware that they don’t know many of the key facts about COVID-19 and “lockdown”.

We will create eye-catching and easy to understand content. Our “Top Ten Facts” can then be downloaded as leaflets, posters, roller displays, public presentations and slideshows for tablets and phones. All information will be based on official data and will avoid “conspiracy theories” which may put people off listening or helping. Volunteers will operate autonomously and present the facts to friends, families, colleagues, neighbours, clubs and amenity groups via pop-up displays in town squares and village halls or small meetings and workshops.

We will aim to create a diverse collection of people from ordinary members of the public to Nobel laureates working together to take control of this matter once and for all. Everyone has a part to play whether you just share our facts on social media or set up and run a local group. We need to work at local level changing public perception one person at a time. If we all do a little then the effect could be enormous.

If you’d like to join the Assembly, click here.

A Good Samaritan Writes…

Touching comment beneath yesterday’s update.

I thought I’d describe something that’s just happened in our local high street. My wife and I had just finished our walk and were heading home. We saw this little old lady (must have been in her 80s) obviously struggling with her shopping and could barely breath with her mask on so I stopped and asked if she needed help. I double and triple checked with her that she was OK with me handling her shopping so I carried it to the bus stop for her. My wife offered to walk with her at the same time and bless her, she linked arms with my wife.

All she did the entire time was thank us for helping her and kept asking if it was OK if she took her mask off. My wife said, “You can do whatever you feel comfortable with my dear. You don’t have to wear it but you can if you want.”

When we sat her down at the bus stop she held both our hands and said thank you ever so much. Her bus wasn’t for ages so my wife has gone back down in the car to give her a lift home

As we were walking away I actually started welling up because throughout the entire interaction, all I kept thinking was: “Can I handle her shopping, am I getting too close, is she going to feel uncomfortable?” When she grabbed our hands to say thank you, that’s what finally set me off.

All I kept thinking was, what the hell have we done to our country? Is this social damage irreversible? I hope not

Father Banned From Watching Baby’s Scan

A reader has been in touch with yet another NHS horror story.

My elder son and daughter-in-law are expecting their first baby in January 2021 and are understandably very excited about it (as are we as prospective grandparents). The first 12 week scan was in early August and my son was not allowed to attend with his wife. He offered to wear a face mask and not touch anything (or anyone apart from his wife) but was told in emphatic terms that no-one could accompany the pregnant mother and he would have to wait in the car (he was not even allowed into the hospital). The 20 week scan is in 2 weeks time, and this is an important scan as the medics check that there are no discernible abnormalities in the foetus, and if the parents wish, they can find out the sex of the baby. Again, he has been told he cannot attend and must wait in the car. This is cruel and heartless treatment. Seeing your baby on screen for the first time is a very special experience for both parents and for one of them to be denied that is unbelievable. I also wonder what happens if they do find a problem with the baby. Do they tell the mother and then leave her on her own to deal with the bad news? Or, do they decide that it is suddenly ‘safe’ for the husband to come in to the hospital so he can support his wife? They live in Solihull and this is not currently an ‘at risk’ area.

How long is this madness going to continue? Here we are nearly six months into this non-pandemic and still the government and NHS are insisting on ridiculous measures to keep the nearly non-existent virus ‘under control’. The hospitals are practically deserted anyway with very few patients attending any clinics. Next my son will be told that he’s not allowed to be at the birth itself!

Newsletter From the Society For the Elimination of Risk

James Hankins, a Harvard History Professor and lockdown sceptic, has written a brilliant spoof in Spectator USA purporting to be a newsletter from Eustace Stockstill, President of the Society for the Elimination of Risk. Here’s an extract:

Furthermore, our survey shows that, thanks to responsible selection of data by the press, the number of people who can distinguish absolute from relative risk has actually declined! Our efforts to raise awareness have led the British to believe that seven percent of Britons have died from coronavirus. Americans are even more aware, estimating that the virus has killed nine percent of their compatriots. Even if these judgments are faulty in a merely arithmetical sense, they surely serve the higher truth to which our Society is dedicated, that no risk is really tolerable. Our Society can congratulate itself for its part in creating this new and better form of rational ignorance. From now on, we and our cooperating scientists will get to decide what it is rational not to know. Who says that innumeracy can’t benefit society?

Worth reading in full.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Just one today: “Communication Breakdown” by Led Zeppelin.

Love in the Time of Covid

Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell in The Americans. Credit: Jeffrey Neira/FX

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums that are now open, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of attention. We’ve also just introduced a section where people can arrange to meet up for non-romantic purposes. We have a team of moderators in place to remove spam and deal with the trolls, but sometimes it takes a little while so please bear with us. You have to register to use the Forums, but that should just be a one-time thing. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A few 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 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 (and some of them are at risk of having to close again). 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! If they’ve made that clear to customers with a sign in the window or similar, so much the better. Don’t worry if your entries don’t show up immediately – we need to approve them once you’ve entered the data.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

We’ve created a permanent slot down here for people who want to buy (or make) a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and it has the advantage of not explicitly claiming you have a disability. But if you have no qualms about that (or you are disabled), you can buy a lanyard from Amazon saying you do have a disability/medical exemption here (now showing it will arrive between Oct 2nd to Oct 12th). The Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. You can get a “Hidden Disability” tag from ebay here and an “exempt” card with lanyard for just £3.99 from Etsy here.

Don’t forget to sign the petition on the UK Government’s petitions website calling for an end to mandatory face nappies in shops here (now over 31,000).

A reader has started a website that contains some useful guidance about how you can claim legal exemption.

And here’s a round-up of the scientific evidence on the effectiveness of mask (threadbare at best).

Stop Press: A reader has got in touch to tell us that her son’s school – Bedgrove Junior School in Aylesbury, Bucks – is insisting that children as young as six will have to wear face masks. Shocking.

We have, today been sent an email which no doubt was on “delayed send” on Bank Holiday Monday in order to prevent immediate readings of furious replies or the inevitable march of angry parents to the school gates, stating children from 6yrs –11yrs are required to wear face masks on the school grounds to “practise” for when the Government makes it mandatory.

The school have stated that masks are to be worn on the way into and out of school, into and out of classrooms and corridors.

Meanwhile, some headteachers think it’s too dangerous to let all children back into schools.

Molly Kingsley speaks for all parents when she says we’ve had enough.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the past 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. Doing these daily updates is a lot of work (although I have help from lots of people, mainly in the form of readers sending me stories and links). If you feel like donating, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here. (If you want me to link to something, don’t forget to include the HTML code).

And Finally…

In this week’s episode of London Calling, James Delingpole and I discuss Piers Corbyn’s £10,000 fine (he should have worn a Black Lives Matter t-shirt), why we’re both such embarrassing dads and the appalling mobbing of the singer Adele for “cultural appropriation”.

Why does the woke Left direct its most vicious abuse towards people who are basically on the same side, but deviate from the orthodoxy in some minor, entirely innocent way? It’s as if they don’t want to change society for the better, just find excuses for cancelling people.

You can listen here. And if you like it, you can subscribe on iTunes here.

Latest News

Largest Anti-Lockdown Demo So Far

The pictures from yesterday’s anti-lockdown demo in Trafalgar Square are quite impressive. Some reports put the turnout at 35,000. The Express was one of the first newspapers to report on the protest.

Pictures of the large crowds show people holding signs that read “coronavirus is a hoax”, “no to mandatory vaccines” and “masks are muzzles”.

One person has claimed it is the largest anti-lockdown protest to date.

The large numbers of protesters have filled the area beneath the National Portrait Gallery.

Very few of those in attendance appear to be wearing face coverings.

A flyer for the event said the protesters would be joined by “top professional doctors and nurses speaking out”.

Jeremy Corbyn’s brother, Piers, is also due to make an appearance at the event.

The Express report was more even-handed than the report in the Metro, which began:

Thousands of coronavirus-deniers have gathered in London’s Trafalgar Square to protest against lockdowns and vaccination programmes.

And the Mail was even worse, headlining its report of the protest: “More than 10,000 COVID conspiracy theorists gather in London as police arrest Jeremy Corbyn’s brother Piers AGAIN: Huge crowd of anti-vaxxers led by David Icke gather to argue that virus is a lie spread in secret global plot organised by Bill Gates“.

A reader emailed me to tell me his impressions after the demo ended.

Just on my way back from the protest at Trafalgar Square. Apparently there were 35,000 people there, according to Piers Corbyn. I wonder what number the mass media will report?

On the whole it was a brilliant atmosphere. Absolutely packed with people, like an outdoor festival event. Brilliant!

My only criticism, is that the MC, Kate Shemirani (an ex-nurse apparently) was pushing some ideas that I just did not agree with. For example:

* 5G radiation will kill us all.

* The vaccine will make us all infertile and kill us all.

* Fluoride in our toothpaste is killing us and numbing our brain.

* Pandemic ideology, that this has all been planned for years/decades, etc.

It frustrates me that 5G conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers are at the forefront of the pushback. I’ve had all my jabs (MMR, BCG, etc.) and I have no issues with vaccines in general. I just don’t agree we need a rushed out vaccine to “cure” a diseases that has pretty much disappeared.

So mixed emotions, but generally I’m feeling good that so many people are waking up to the nonsense.

Meanwhile, a protest in Berlin was broken up by police at 9am, according to MSN News.

Police ordered a protest by people opposed to Germany’s pandemic restrictions to disband after participants refused to observe social distancing rules.

Tens of thousands of people had gathered at the German capital’s Brandenburg Gate in the morning before streaming down the Unter den Linden boulevard in a show of defiance against Germany’s coronavirus prevention measures.

Protesters carried a wide range of grievances and banners proclaiming their opposition to vaccinations, face masks and the German government in general.

Stop Press: There was an anti-lockdown protest in Ottawa yesterday. The T-shirts and slogans are remarkably similar to those in London and Berlin. This is a global movement.

Is the Government Preparing to Turn the NHS into a Covid-Only Service Again?

Matt Hancock gave an interview to ITV News on Friday in which he suggested plans are underway to turn the NHS into the National Coronavirus Service this winter, seemingly oblivious to the tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths this misstep caused over the summer.

“We’re doing a huge amount of planning to make sure that the NHS is prepared and can cope to make sure that people can have as much freedom to enjoy Christmas, to enjoy winter, as possible,” he said.

What’s the rationale, Matt? Better to have half-empty hospitals and turn patients away just in case there’s a spike in Covid hospitalisations over Christmas? That’s like throwing people out of an aeroplane to reduce the risk of it crashing.

Alarming.

Schools Insisting on Unnecessary Face Muzzles

Yesterday, my colleague Will Jones asked readers to get in touch if their children’s schools were insisting on face coverings, even if they’re not in local lockdown areas. Needless to say, we’ve been deluged with responses.

This is an extract from a letter sent to parents at Chatham and Clarendon Grammar School

Face Covering – with regard to the revised Government guidance yesterday about the wearing of face masks in communal areas and in restricted spaces like corridors, at the moment this is not mandatory as Thanet is not in an area with increased lockdown restrictions. However the corridors in the school are very narrow and we have therefore decided that with safety uppermost in everyone’s minds we will require all students to bring face coverings with them to school and wear them in corridors and communal areas. Each student must bring plastic sealable bags to store their face covering and use the lidded bins on site to dispose of face coverings if they get wet or damaged and should also carry spares for this eventuality.

Here’s another, this one from a grandparent in Darlington which is an area of low infection.

My granddaughter attends Polam Hall School in Darlington and will be returning for the new term next Friday. We have received guidance relating to COVID-19 procedures. It says “You will be asked to wear a face covering in crowded corridors and communal areas”. So no mention of Government guidelines or the WHO in this case. However, Darlington has always been at the lower end of the scale in terms of COVID-19 cases. I keep a check via the BBC online service which allows you to enter your postcode to find out how many cases there have been. Last week there were two cases in a town with a population of just over 106,000.

This one is from a parent of a school in Cobham:

I’d like to report my school, ACS International School Cobham, bringing in a masking rule for all children aged 10-18 in indoor communal areas. In our case, this will mean everywhere except in the classroom. Cobham (district of Elmbridge) has no local spikes in infection and has no plans to introduce local lockdown of which I am aware.

I put it down to pre-emptive action due to extreme caution and ignorance of the facts. This action will, of course, make absolutely no difference whatsoever to the odds of someone introducing COVID-19 to the general school body. We have opened a book on the odds of the school shutting again. Current best guess is mid-October.

Here’s the face mask section in a letter from Guy Sanderson, the headmaster of Eltham College, a private school in Mottingham.

As I mentioned last week, students travelling on school buses or public transport will be required to wear a face covering. We have taken the decision to follow World Health Organisation guidelines and to go further than the government’s current stated positions on masks in school. Accordingly, all Senior School students should bring a mask (and ideally some spare masks) to school in addition to the mask that they wear whilst travelling to school. Students will be required to wear these between lessons when moving around corridors and for communal events such as year group assemblies. They will not need to wear them in lessons (where they impede communication) or when outside on the fields at break or lunchtime.

The parent of a child at Alcester Grammar has forwarded the rules issued by the school’s headmaster:

Face coverings should be worn
• In corridors and inside communal spaces
• Whilst queuing for entry / collection of food in the canteen, Pit Stop and Studio
• In the Theatre and Sports Hall for assemblies
• In study areas (library, Newport Study).
• On transport and when queueing for buses after school

The same parent has suggested that another verse should be added to Madness’s “Baggy Trousers“:

Risk-free kids in risk-free schools
Headmasters laying down new rules
No more fun, we’re ruled by fools
Can’t get near the woodwork tools

Do Masks Increase Risk of Transmission?

I’ve published an original article today by a senior research scientist for a pharmaceutical company on the risks posed by face masks. Here’s the kernel of the argument:

The aim of face coverings is to prevent an asymptomatic individual from infecting others. For such an individual, their face covering would become saturated with respiratory droplets containing coronavirus and in fact, the more effective the face covering, the more virus it will have captured. So if an infectious individual touched their face covering, they would potentially be contaminating their fingers with coronavirus…which they could then transfer to the next thing they touched – like a door handle, handrail or table.

Although such an individual could have still contaminated their hands and the environment whilst not wearing a face covering, the fact that the face covering has captured viral particles means that it provides a much more concentrated source of the virus. Additionally, putting a cloth covering on your face will almost certainly increase the probability that someone would touch their face to adjust or fiddle with it, especially if it is not well fitted. This further increasing the likelihood that an infectious individual would actually touch the contaminated cloth material.

Worth reading in full.

Alarmist Sage Report Says 85,000 People Could Die of Covid This Winter

According to a Newsnight report by Deborah Cohen on Friday night, Sage signed off on a report in July predicting that a further 85,000 could die of Covid in the UK between July and March 2021 in a reasonable worst case scenario. Cohen has written up her report for BBC News.

A leaked government report suggests a “reasonable worst case scenario” of 85,000 deaths across the UK this winter due to COVID-19.

The document also says while more restrictions could be re-introduced, schools would likely remain open.

But it says the report “is a scenario, not a prediction” and the data are subject to “significant uncertainty”.

However some are critical of the modelling and say some of it is already out of date.

The document, which has been seen by BBC Newsnight, was prepared for the government by the Sage scientific advisory group, which aims to help the NHS and local authorities plan services, such as mortuaries and burial services, for the winter months ahead.

Among its key assumptions are that schools will remain open and that the government’s tracing, isolation, and quarantine measures will only be 40% effective in cutting the spread of Covid outside households.

It also states that by November “policy measures would be put in place to reduce non-household contacts to half of their normal pre March 2020 levels”. In other words, restrictions to mitigate the impact – other than school closures – could be put in place.

According to the report these measures might be expected to remain in place until March 2021.

I haven’t seen this report, but what’s the betting that the 85,000 prediction is based on a static computer model that takes no account of the fact that the rise in cases since July, whether here or in Europe, has not been accompanied by any corresponding rise in hospitalisations or deaths? (The authors should read this surprisingly even-handed piece by Fergus Walsh for BBC News). Business leaders are reportedly furious about this report and the suggestion that there might have to be a second lockdown to prevent these deaths.

The assumptions built into the report, as described by Deborah Cohen, sound unduly pessimistic.

The figures, which the scientists say have a wide range of uncertainty, suggest around 2.4% of infected people could be hospitalised (range: 0.0%-8.9%) with 20.5% of hospitalised patients going into ICU (range: 1.5% – 35.25) and 23.3% (range: 1.2% – 43.3%) of all hospitalised patients dying.

The model also predicts an overall infection fatality ratio of 0.7% (0.0% – 9.7%).

While the model is by no means a prediction and subject to “significant uncertainty”, the reasonable worst case scenario is used to inform government planning decisions.

However, some are critical of the modelling and believe some of the assumptions in the “official sensitive” model prepared for the Cabinet Office are wrong and the model is unhelpful given the wide range in possible scenarios.

Prof Carl Heneghan, from Oxford University, said some of the assumptions made in the model were “implausible” and that the report assumes that “we’ve learnt nothing from the first wave of this disease”.

If anyone has a link to the report, or has a copy, please send it to the usual email address. We’ll get our team of experts to scrutinise it.

Worth remembering that last month another report, this one done at the request the UK’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, suggested there might be about 120,000 new coronavirus deaths in a second wave of infections this winter. Why the discrepancy between that report and this?

They might as well just pick these numbers out of a hat.

You can watch Deborah Cohen’s report here.

Government Casting Call For People to Model “Spreading Germs”

An actor has sent me a casting call he received yesterday. You couldn’t make it up.

Needless to say, SARS-CoV-2 “germs” don’t show up “under a UV light”. What about a UVA light, which is what the writer of this blurb actually means? Nope. Coronavirus particles are so small you’d need an electron microscope to see them.

How the Government can persuade itself that it’s pumping out this bedwetting propaganda to counter “misinformation” is beyond me.

A Philosopher Writes…

A left-leaning, Remain-voting, Tory-averse philosopher

I got another email from a self-described “left-leaning, Remain-voting, Tory-averse” person saying he shares our scepticism about the crisis. This one is from a philosophy professor (not AC Grayling, I should point out).

I’m just writing to thank you for Lockdown Sceptics. I’m a Professor of Philosophy, working mostly on medicine and health. So I find that I’m able to digest a lot of the scientific literature and I’m also pretty good at identifying the weak points in arguments. Back in March, I thought the lockdown was an awful mistake, but I naively assumed that the situation would be reevaluated as the evidence became clearer. That didn’t happen, of course. Instead, anything that didn’t fit the established narrative was distorted until it did and then assimilated, or it was ignored. Still, I hoped that reason and evidence would prevail by now. But no, it’s masks, more masks, and then even more masks – surely they’ll help ward off the evil spirits.

For a while, I was just bemused by it all, but now I’m genuinely frightened. Can one really impose something so odious as mandatory masking on the whole population, despite there being no decent evidence in support of it? Yep, they’ll just slap the rags on their faces as a symbol of virtue and chastise anyone who doesn’t conform, so that the whole wretched thing is self-policing. I dread to think of all the things an authoritarian regime could get the Great British public to do, while barely lifting a finger.

More generally, something deeply unsettling is happening, which I really struggle to understand: somehow or other, this virus has triggered a perfect storm of reasoning biases, fears, and vices disguised as virtues, resulting in something that often looks more like the behaviour of a religious cult than an informed response to a viral pandemic.

Lockdown Sceptics is one of only a few places where I’ve consistently been able to find sensible discussions of what’s going on. So I’m very grateful to you for your efforts. Good luck to you!

That penultimate paragraph is bang on. In response, I sent him this blog post by Hugh Willbourn which flagged up a book called When Prophesy Fails by a psychologist called Leon Festinger who joined a UFO doomsday cult in the 1950s to better understand the mindset of its members. Festinger was astonished by what happened when the cult’s doomsday prophesy failed to materialise. Instead of abandoning their crackpot beliefs, the members doubled-down, coming up with spurious reasons as to why the apocalyptic prediction they’d made hadn’t come true. Festinger hypothesised that the reason these cultists refused to abandon their beliefs was because the pain of admitting they’d been wrong, and their sacrifices were all for nothing, would have been too much to bear.

Sound familiar?

Every Mistake We’ve Made So Far Predicted in 2006

Soothsayer Thomas Inglesby predicted every single mistake we’ve made in 2006 paper

A reader in the US has flagged up a 2006 paper by Thomas Inglesby, Director of Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health, in which every mistake that governments around the world have made in their response to the pandemic was warned against. It’s quite uncanny. The paper is called “Disease mitigation measures in the control of pandemic influenza“. Here are some highlights:

In brief, models can play a contributory role in thinking through possible mitigation measures, but they cannot be more than an ancillary aid in deciding policy…

A major challenge for all authorities charged with managing a pandemic will be how to allot scarce, possibly life-saving medical resources and how to maintain hospitals’ capacity to care for critically ill flu victims while continuing to provide other essential medical services…

The negative consequences of large-scale quarantine are so extreme (forced confinement of sick people with the well; complete restriction of movement of large populations; difficulty in getting critical supplies, medicines, and food to people inside the quarantine zone) that this mitigation measure should be eliminated from serious consideration…

Home quarantine also raises ethical questions. Implementation of home quarantine could result in healthy, uninfected people being placed at risk of infection from sick household members. Practices to reduce the chance of transmission (hand-washing, maintaining a distance of 3 feet from+ infected people, etc.) could be recommended, but a policy imposing home quarantine would preclude, for example, sending healthy children to stay with relatives when a family member becomes ill. Such a policy would also be particularly hard on and dangerous to people living in close quarters, where the risk of infection would be heightened…

It is reasonable to assume that the economic costs of shutting down air or train travel would be very high, and the societal costs involved in interrupting all air or train travel would be extreme…

Implementing such measures would have seriously disruptive consequences for a community if extended through the 8-week period of an epidemic in a municipal area, let alone if it were to be extended through the nation’s experience with a pandemic (perhaps 8 months). In the event of a pandemic, attendance at public events or social gatherings could well decrease because people were fearful of becoming infected, and some events might be cancelled because of local concerns. But a policy calling for community wide cancellation of public events seems inadvisable…

Schools are often closed for 1–2 weeks early in the development of seasonal community outbreaks of influenza primarily because of high absentee rates, especially in elementary schools, and because of illness among teachers. This would seem reasonable on practical grounds. However, to close schools for longer periods is not only impracticable but carries the possibility of a serious adverse outcome. For example, for working parents, school serves as a form of day care and, in some areas, a source of nutritional meals for children from lower-income families. In 2005, some 29.5 million children were fed through the National School Lunch Program; 9.3 million children received meals as part of the School Breakfast Program. A portion of America’s workforce would be unable to go to work as long as children were out of schools. Heightened absentee rates could cripple essential service industries. Teachers might not be paid and a great many hourly workers (mall and fast-food employees; school janitorial, security, and kitchen staff; bus drivers) would face particular financial hardship…

And here’s the kicker:

An overriding principle. Experience has shown that communities faced with epidemics or other adverse events respond best and with the least anxiety when the normal social functioning of the community is least disrupted. Strong political and public health leadership to provide reassurance and to ensure that needed medical care services are provided are critical elements. If either is seen to be less than optimal, a manageable epidemic could move toward catastrophe.

Lockdown zealots will say, “This was advice about how best to respond to an influenza pandemic and that isn’t what this is.” But in reality the coronavirus is no more deadly than a bad bout of seasonal flu and, therefore, the advice contained in this 2006 paper is 100% relevant.

Worth reading in full.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Three today: “Twisting and Turning” by the New Foundation, “All Out to Get You” by the Beat and “Germ Free Adolescence” by X-Ray Specs,

Love in the Time of Covid

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums that are now open, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of attention. We’ve also just introduced a section where people can arrange to meet up for non-romantic purposes. We have a team of moderators in place to remove spam and deal with the trolls, but sometimes it takes a little while so please bear with us. You have to register to use the Forums, but that should just be a one-time thing. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A few 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 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 (and some of them are at risk of having to close again). 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! If they’ve made that clear to customers with a sign in the window or similar, so much the better. Don’t worry if your entries don’t show up immediately – we need to approve them once you’ve entered the data.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

I’ve created a permanent slot down here for people who want to buy (or make) a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and it has the advantage of not explicitly claiming you have a disability. But if you have no qualms about that (or you are disabled), you can buy a lanyard from Amazon saying you do have a disability/medical exemption here (now showing it will arrive between Oct 2nd to Oct 12th). The Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. You can get a “Hidden Disability” tag from ebay here and an “exempt” card with lanyard for just £3.99 from Etsy here.

Don’t forget to sign the petition on the UK Government’s petitions website calling for an end to mandatory face nappies in shops here (now almost 31,000).

A reader has started a website that contains some useful guidance about how you can claim legal exemption.

And here’s a round-up of the scientific evidence on the effectiveness of mask (threadbare at best).

Stop Press: Jenny Harries, England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, says “the evidence on face coverings is not very strong in either direction”. The Mail has more.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the past 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. Doing these daily updates is a lot of work (although I have help from lots of people, including Will Jones who will be doing these updates about half the time from now on). If you feel like donating, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links we should include in future updates, email me here. And if you’re sending a link don’t forget to include the HTML code.

And Finally…

Latest News

Yet Another Bloody U-Turn

“No but, yeah but… What does Nicola Sturgeon say?”

Boris often sings the praises of the first-class education he received at Eton and Oxford. But the most valuable lesson he ever received was when he was taught to drive. After all, that’s where he learnt how to do a U-turn.

The Prime Minister has now performed so many reverse ferrets he’s in danger of swallowing his own tail. Yesterday brought news of his latest pirouette – on face masks in schools.

Since he returned from his camping holiday in Scotland, Boris has been on a mission to persuade parents it’s safe to send their kids back to school.

“The risk of contracting COVID-19 in school is very small and it is far more damaging for a child’s development and their health and wellbeing to be away from school any longer,” he said on Sunday.

But now he’s changed his mind – apparently influenced by Nicola Sturgeon’s decision to make face coverings mandatory in Scottish secondary schools. Henceforth, kids aged 11 and older will have to wear masks in local lockdown areas. Not so safe, then. Talk about mixed messages! The Prime Minister’s default response whenever he’s asked a question of vital national importance is to launch into his Vicky Pollard impression: “No but, yeah but…”

Let’s be clear: the risk posed to children by COVID-19 is vanishing-to-zero. As the Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Jenny Harries said on Monday, kids are more likely to be killed in a road traffic accident than die of coronavirus – and that may be overstating it. To date, only two children between the ages of 5 and 14 have succumbed to the virus.

Some parents are worried about their kids catching it in school and then passing it on to vulnerable adults. Rest assured, that risk is negligible, too. Earlier this year, China and the World Health Organisation issued a report saying they hadn’t found a single case of a child transmitting the disease to an adult.

The bottom line is children aren’t vulnerable to this disease and they don’t pass it on. Why can’t Boris just stick to that clear, simple message?

He had an opportunity to reassure parents and he’s blown it.

The Mail is incandescent about this latest bit of dilly-dallying, while the Sun blames Gavin Williamson. The Telegraph says Tory MPs are furious about the endless U-turns the Prime Minister has performed – seemingly more responsive to Nicola Sturgeon than he is to Parliament. The only supportive article I could find was this piece by Angela Epstein in the Telegraph – and the comments below the line from sceptical readers are a joy to read.

As someone who helped set up four schools – one secondary and three primaries – I know just what a nightmare it will be to make children wear masks. How will teachers know which child is talking out of turn? How will they respond when a child claims to be exempt? Will children who turn up at the school gate without a mask be sent home? Or stuck in isolation?

Don’t take my word for it. Calvin Robinson, the teacher who appeared in a recent Department for Education’s advertising campaign to recruit more teachers, described the endless problems this will create in schools in an interview on Radio London last night.

When is Boris going to show some leadership? His response to this national crisis has been the opposite of Churchillian.

He’s more like the nodding dog in the insurance advert than the wartime leader.

The Year Evidence-Based Medicine Died

Blower’s cartoon in today’s Times

A senior research scientist in a pharmaceutical company with over 15 years’ experience in drug research and development, both in biotech and large pharma, has emailed to express his despair about mandatory face masks in schools.

I was moved to write when I read with utter dismay about the decision for masks to become mandatory in Scottish schools, with the rest of the UK probably not far behind.

As a scientist, for me face coverings are emblematic of what has gone completely wrong in our approach to COVID-19. Face coverings are not some “jolly jape” or “what’s the harm” thing, they are an invasive treatment that has been imposed on the entire population based on weak scientific evidence. They also have potential to cause harm both to individuals and the environment; how long before disposable cloth “jelly-fish” start washing up on our beaches? I also believe that in some circumstances they could actually increase the risk of transmission. Simply stating over and over that face-coverings help “stop the spread” without any data, seems to me to smack of “if we say it enough, it will be true”, rather than sound clinical science.

What is so utterly ridiculous is that the potential risks/benefits of face coverings are completely testable with appropriately designed studies and if this was a normal clinical intervention then there would be a justified expectation of just such testing before being was rolled out. I’ve seen people say that holdouts against masks are akin to those who wouldn’t wear seatbelts. But the big difference is that seatbelts were subjected to precisely this kind of rigorous testing, and there was a lot of evidence that they worked, before they became mandatory. Such evidence for face coverings simply does not exist, or has not been published, so scepticism is justifiable given that it is a significant societal change to mandate wearing a face-covering in most public spaces.

Graham Martin et al summed this up in a recent paper: “Well-intended population health interventions can do harm, but the downsides of mandatory face-covering policies have to date been under-conceptualised and under-studied.”

Given the general chaos in policy making, the imposition of lockdown itself and the ongoing issues surrounding screening highlighted by people such as Prof. Heneghan, it appears to me that 2020 is the year that evidence-based medicine died.

Rod Liddle on the BBC

Rod Liddle’s column in the Sun today – about the Rule Britannia row – is a corker.

All those ghastly people waving their Union Jacks. Singing Land of Hope and Glory and Rule, Britannia!. Nasty Little Englanders who probably voted for Brexit.

It’s the one night of the year when the BBC’s left wing bias is dropped for an hour or two.

And the licence-payer for once gets what they want. An evening of enjoyable, uplifting patriotism.

The BBC holds Middle England in utter contempt – and has done so for a long while.

It cannot tolerate anything which doesn’t fit into its woke agenda. And it’s why support for the BBC diminishes daily.

It has lost touch with the values of the people who pay for its existence.

Still, there’s one bright side to all this. It’s saved me £157.50 per year.

I will not pay the licence fee any more. Not ever again.

Why should I pay for an organisation which hates and despises everything I believe in?

Meanwhile, Vera Lynn signing “Land of Hope and Glory” has topped the iTunes charts.

Economists: “The Scientists Got it Wrong.”

Hat tip to Jeffrey Tucker, the Editorial Director of the American Institute for Economic Research, for sending me this excellent paper by four economists. Called “Four Stylized Facts About COVID-19“, it cites four things we know about the virus and its transmission that suggests the initial policy response across the world was wrong. Here’s the abstract:

We document four facts about the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide relevant for those studying the impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) on COVID-19 transmission. First: across all countries and U.S. states that we study, the growth rates of daily deaths from COVID-19 fell from a wide range of initially high levels to levels close to zero within 20-30 days after each region experienced 25 cumulative deaths. Second: after this initial period, growth rates of daily deaths have hovered around zero or below everywhere in the world. Third: the cross section standard deviation of growth rates of daily deaths across locations fell very rapidly in the first 10 days of the epidemic and has remained at a relatively low level since then. Fourth: when interpreted through a range of epidemiological models, these first three facts about the growth rate of COVID deaths imply that both the effective reproduction numbers and transmission rates of COVID-19 fell from widely dispersed initial levels and the effective reproduction number has hovered around one after the first 30 days of the epidemic virtually everywhere in the world. We argue that failing to account for these four stylized facts may result in overstating the importance of policy mandated NPIs for shaping the progression of this deadly pandemic.

Worth reading in full.

We Will Mock You

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gaQijAMaiOQ

This YouTube video by Media Bear ridiculing Covid hysterics – and BLM protestors for good measure – is fantastic.

Glad to see there are some young people not buying the bullshit.

Letter From Care Home Dated March 23rd

A reader has passed on the letter she received from her mother’s care home in Bagshot on March 23rd, the day the full lockdown was imposed.

This is with a great sadness I have to say that I have been informed by our Doctor today that NHS hospitals will not accept people over 70 years old if they have been tested positive with COVID 19, which means that these residents will be treated here, at Sunrise of Bagshot, and in case of deterioration they will go straight into palliative care. In these unprecedented times due to COVID-19 outbreak the NHS has no choice but to make tough decisions. I want to reassure you that we are doing everything possible to keep our residents safe and well protected.

At this moment we are working with Doctor to sign DNR forms for all of our residents. In order for us to complete this, I would ask you to send me a confirmation email if you agree for this to happen if your parent/loved one doesn’t have one.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss this with Doctor, please let me know and I will arrange telephone conversation.

Thank you for your understanding.

Horrendous. But at least this reader’s care home had the courtesy to consult her about the DNR form…

Civil Servants Are Very Busy… Sunbathing

“I couldn’t possible return to work, Minister. It’s far too dangerous.”

Got an email from a reader who’s understandably angry about public sector employees refusing to return to work because it’s “too dangerous”.

Your daily update is the highlight of my day. I’m a self-employed bookkeeper who also runs payrolls so I’ve been working throughout the nonsense. I’ve been increasingly exasperated at the ridiculous restrictions placed upon us. I thought you might like to know of the worst instance I’ve heard of. My husband is a retired army officer who is now employed by the MoD on a large army base in Hampshire. The entire civil service staff were sent home in March and most have since been issued with laptops. They have a Friday morning ‘coffee’ on Zoom where they discuss whether they will be sunbathing or carrying out DIY during their office hours. Most have decided it’s “too dangerous” to return to work. Today I’ve been told that Army HQ have decreed that no more than 25% of staff should attend the office at any time (regardless of office space – the civil service is not known for cramped conditions!). I am beyond angry as I and all my small business clients have worked throughout as their livelihoods depend on it , as have supermarket staff. Our council (Wiltshire) is impossible to reach and my efforts during the course of my work to communicate with HMRC have been utterly fruitless. There are retired people in my lane who have been ‘shielding’ since March and are now so frightened they are on the verge of mental Illness. They haven’t even been out of the village as it’s “too dangerous”. This is surely a result of the ‘stay at home and save lives’ propaganda from the BBC which is their only source of information.

Kim-Jong Dan Not Quite a Dictator (Yet)

Charlie Chaplin, in the 1940 film The Great Dictator

It seems I may have overstated things yesterday when I said Kim-Jong Dan was going to extend the State of Emergency in Victoria for another 18 months. A reader has written to point out the news isn’t quite that bad.

Re. the comment on Dictator-Dan – he is seeking a 12-month extension to the State of Emergency powers which reach their six-month legal maximum on Sep 16 (not yet extending for 18 moths). If he gets the extension it allows him to reinstate his rolling four-week lockdowns/restrictions on the advice of the Chief Health Officer and no one else. BUT the legislation must pass the Victorian state upper house and his party (Labor) only has 17 of 40 seat, so not yet a done deal for Danny The Dictator.

Looking For a PA

I’m looking for a part-time personal assistant to help me and the Chief Operating Officer at the Free Speech Union. Pay isn’t bad: £25/hour. Eight to 14 hours a week. More details, including how to apply, here. Please forward the link to anyone you think might be interested.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Four today: “High Street Blues” by HCB, “Dead Cities” by the Exploited, “From Riches to Rags” by Travis Orbin and “Hot For Teacher” by Van Halen.

Love in the Time of Covid

Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway as the outlaws Bonnie and Clyde

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of attention. We’ve also just introduced a section where people can arrange to meet up for non-romantic purposes. We have a team of moderators in place to remove spam and deal with the trolls, but sometimes it takes a little while so please bear with us. You have to register to use the Forums, but that should just be a one-time thing. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A few 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 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 (and some of them are at risk of having to close again). 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! If they’ve made that clear to customers with a sign in the window or similar, so much the better. Don’t worry if your entries don’t show up immediately – we need to approve them once you’ve entered the data.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

I’ve created a permanent slot down here for people who want to buy (or make) a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and it has the advantage of not explicitly claiming you have a disability. But if you have no qualms about that (or you are disabled), you can buy a lanyard from Amazon saying you do have a disability/medical exemption here (now showing it will arrive between Oct 3rd to Oct 13th). The Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. You can get a “Hidden Disability” tag from ebay here and an “exempt” card with lanyard for just £3.99 from Etsy here.

Don’t forget to sign the petition on the UK Government’s petitions website calling for an end to mandatory face nappies in shops here (now over 30,000).

A reader has started a website that contains some useful guidance about how you can claim legal exemption.

And here’s a round-up of the scientific evidence on the effectiveness of mask (threadbare at best).

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the past 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. Doing these daily updates is a lot of work (although I have help from lots of people, mainly in the form of readers sending me stories and links). If you feel like donating, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here. If you want me to link to something, don’t forget to include the HTML code, i.e. a link.

And Finally…

In my monthly column in Spectator USA, I argue that Donald Trump should seek inspiration from an unlikely source in his forthcoming re-election campaign.

To win in November, Trump should seek inspiration from President Alexander Lukashenko, the 65-year-old autocrat who has ruled Belarus since 1994. He trounced his liberal opponent in the presidential election in August with 80 percent of the vote.

I’m not suggesting Trump emulate Lukashenko’s methods. Among other things, the man dubbed ‘Europe’s last dictator’ disqualified his three main political opponents at the beginning of the race, imprisoning two of them. He has never won an election with less than 75 percent of the vote, although none have been found to be free and fair by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), an election monitoring body. His defeated opponent this time round — Svetlana Tikhanovskaya — was initially detained by the authorities, during which she recorded a hostage video conceding defeat, before fleeing the country.

But in one respect, at least, Trump should take a leaf out of Lukashenko’s book. The barrel-chested populist is an unapologetic COVID skeptic. Belarus was one of only two European countries that didn’t impose a full lockdown, Sweden being the other, with Lukashenko urging his fellow citizens to avoid infection by drinking vodka and taking saunas. The Belarusian football league was the only one in Europe not to shut down, providing soccer fans across the continent with a much-needed weekly fix. In May, with Belarus’s COVID death toll still in double digits, Lukashenko congratulated himself on not succumbing to the global panic.

“You see that in the affluent West, unemployment is out of control,” he told supporters at a mass rally. “People are banging on pots. People want to eat. Thank God, we avoided this. We didn’t shut down.”

This was the rallying cry of Lukashenko’s presidential campaign: that the threat posed by COVID-19 had been wildly exaggerated by his bedwetting opponents and it was thanks to his innate common sense that Belarus was weathering the storm better than other countries. And Trump could make a similar argument. True, he wasn’t able to prevent Democratic governors from imposing severe lockdowns in states like New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Massachusetts and Michigan. But insofar as he was able to stay the hand of Republican governors and use the bully pulpit of the White House to pour scorn on the panicky pronouncements of public health panjandrums, he showed real leadership.

Of course, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are trying to portray Trump’s handling of the crisis as a catastrophic mistake and pin America’s high COVID death toll on him. But if you look at deaths per capita, the US fares better than Belgium, the UK, Spain, Italy, Peru and Chile. Yes, America’s economy shrunk in the second quarter of 2020, but by just 9.5 percent, the second-lowest contraction in the G7. (The UK figure was 20.4 percent.) Trump can claim, with some justification, that the US has fared better than most during this global pandemic and that he’s entitled to some of the credit.

Worth reading in full.

Latest News

Children More Likely to Die of Flu than Covid – Deputy Chief Medical Officer

This is what England’s teaching unions would like primary school classrooms to look like

Dr Jenny Harries, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer of England, told Sky News this morning that children are more likely to die of flu or be killed in a road traffic accident than succumb to COVID-19.

“The long term harms of children not attending school significantly, we think, outweigh those potential risks,” she said.

“No environment is completely risk-free.

“Every time a parent sends their child off to school pre-Covid they may have been involved in a road traffic accident, there are all sorts of things.

“In fact that risk, or the risk from seasonal flu, we think is probably higher than the current risk of Covid.”

This message was complemented by the Times’s front page story this morning, which says, “Teachers spread virus more than pupils.”

New research from Public Health England revealed that two thirds of outbreaks arose from staff-to-staff transmission, or staff-to-pupil.

In June the number of schools open was between 20,500 and 23,400, with pupil numbers increasing from 475,000 to 1,646,000. In June and last month 200 children and staff were affected by the illness. Over the same period 25,470 cases were recorded across England as a whole.

Thirty outbreaks, defined as two or more linked cases in one school, were recorded between the start of June and the end of last month. These represented 0.01% of preschools and primary schools in England.

The figures will encourage those who have argued that school is a safe place for children during the pandemic.

Killer line: “These [outbreaks] represented 0.01% of preschools and primary schools in England.

Stop Press: Boris issued a statement this morning saying children’s “life chances” will suffer if they don’t go back to school and in the Telegraph Iain Duncan-Smith urges the PM to show “some Churchillian spirit” to get kids back to school.

Lockdown Was a “Monumental Mistake on a Global Scale” – Sage Member

Lockdown will come to be seen as a “monumental mistake on a global scale” and must never happen again, says Mark Woolhouse, a scientist who advises the Government on infectious diseases. The Express has the story.

Mark Woolhouse said lockdown was a “panic measure” but admitted it was the only option at the time because “we couldn’t think of anything better to do”.

But it is a crude measure that takes no accounts of the risk levels to different individuals, the University of Edinburgh professor said, meaning that back in March the nation was “concentrating on schools when we should have been concentrating on care homes”.

The Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology said that the Government must now focus on increasing testing and striving to unlock society safely rather than restricting it further.

Prof Woolhouse OBE, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours that advises the Government, said: “Lockdown was a panic measure and I believe history will say trying to control Covid-19 through lockdown was a monumental mistake on a global scale, the cure was worse than the disease.

“I never want to see national lockdown again. It was always a temporary measure that simply delayed the stage of the epidemic we see now. It was never going to change anything fundamentally, however low we drove down the number of cases, and now we know more about the virus and how to track it we should not be in this position again.

“We absolutely should never return to a position where children cannot play or go to school.

“I believe the harm lockdown is doing to our education, health care access, and broader aspects of our economy and society will turn out to be at least as great as the harm done by COVID-19.”

He said that Sage, the government’s advisory board on dealing with Covid, needed to have members from a wider range of fields.

At last, one of the Government’s scientific advisors is talking sense. Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: According to NHS England there has only been one Covid death of someone under 40 in the past month.

NHS Ordered Care Homes Not to Resuscitate

Alarming story in the Telegraph. According to Sarah Knapton, the Science Editor, one in 10 care home staff members changed ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ plans without discussing them first with family members, nursing staff, or residents.

Care homes were asked by NHS managers and GPs to place blanket ‘Do not resuscitate’ (DNR) orders on all their residents at the height of the coronavirus pandemic to keep hospital beds free, a new report has found.

The Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI) – the world’s oldest nursing charity – discovered one in 10 care home staff surveyed was ordered to change DNR plans without discussion with family members, nursing staff, or with the residents themselves.

Half of staff members who said they had been asked to change DNRs worked in homes for the elderly, while half worked in homes for younger people with learning or cognitive disabilities.

Staff also warned that some hospitals were operating a ‘no admissions’ policy for care home residents – even for non-COVID-19 conditions such as heart attacks – and some said they had struggled to make appointments with GPs for elderly people.

Report author Prof Alison Leary MBE said the findings were ‘worrying’ and called for an inquiry.

This is a scandal. Worth reading in full.

Another Terrible Cancer Story

A couple of days ago I invited readers to send me their stories about failing to secure adequate cancer care on the NHS. They’ve been flooding in. Here’s another heart-breaking tale.

My husband has a history of Hodgkins Lymphoma and is one of the 1.5 million people who were sent a long, terribly concerned letter from the Government strongly urging him to stay at home until they decided it was safe enough to venture out again. In the first week of lockdown he discovered a lump in his neck and, after some hesitation, tried to see our local GP. The surgery was abandoned by all the doctors who we were told were “working” from home.

A doctor rang my husband the following day for a consultation – no Zoom and no access to his medical notes. However, due to his history, the doctor agreed to refer my husband to our local hospital in Chelmsford. After two weeks we discovered he had been referred back to the GP. We tried again and another referral was made which was taken more seriously.

Since then he has had a PET scan showing “areas of concern” and two biopsies, the first one on June 26th, the results of which would be discussed with us by phone on July 24th. The day came but no phone call. We rang them only to be told the wrong biopsy had been done – a fine needle aspiration instead of a core biopsy – and a new biopsy would be done on August 5th. He was now officially a “fast path” patient and we were promised a phone consultation to discuss the results on August 20th. Again, no call, no results.

My husband first made contact with the GP on April 9th. It is now nearly September and he is yet to see a medical professional and we know no more than we did in early April. The stress and anger this has caused us, me in particular, are impossible to describe. My husband is an otherwise fit and healthy 60 year-old and father of two teenage children. He hasn’t missed a day of work during this whole time keeping a small manufacturing company in Harlow going without any redundancies or furloughs.

I feel I’ve woken up in a parallel universe where the normal citizenry have been turned into obedient Stepford wives and the government and its institutions are the smug husbands. We are at sea in a sinking boat drifting further from shore whilst the lifeguards look on shrugging their shoulders before turning away to deal with a couple of cases of mild sunburn.

I don’t feel I can ever love my country again.

I know how she feels.

Twitter Thread Claims China Used Fake Media Accounts to Promote Lockdown

Cartoon by Niels Bo Bojesen, Jyllands-Posten

There’s a fascinating Twitter thread by Michael Senger about how the Chinese Communist Party launched a massive disinformation campaign in March urging governments around the world to impose full lockdowns. It links to plenty of evidence, such as this piece in the New York Times about how the CCP used fake Twitter accounts to amplify tweets praising China’s response to the pandemic in early March. The day after that Times article appeared, Twitter suspended more than 170,000 suspicious Chinese accounts. But according to Senger, many of these accounts remain active.

For instance, when the Governor of South Dakota refused to shut down her state, her Twitter feed filled up with thousands of abusive messages from these accounts. “By contrast, the accounts heap praise on governors who tighten lockdowns, like Dan Andrews, gov of Victoria, AUS,” writes Senger.

When Boris initially seemed to plump for herd immunity, the bots went to work, swarming his feed with messages comparing the policy to “genocide”.

And the disinformation campaign continued, focusing on different leaders each day, urging them to lock down. “Hard to think of any place more ill-suited to a total lockdown than Africa, but that’s exactly what CCP’s fake accounts demanded of South African President @CyrilRamaphosa on March 22,” Senger writes. “The next day, they got what they wanted, and Ramaphosa announced a total lockdown.”

After South Africa, it was India’s turn to be targetted. “On March 23, CCP’s army of fake accounts implored PM @PMOIndia to lock down India and order the army to ‘shoot on sight’ to enforce it,” writes Senger. “The next day, Modi announced a destructive lockdown.”

Senger is continuing to compile evidence and adding to his thread every day. If you’re not on Twitter, you can read the whole thread here.

Disturbing.

Stop Press: Sue Denim, who knows a thing or two about Twitter bots, says this is complete balls. Treat with extreme caution.

Covid Mortality Higher in Democratic States

A reader has been comparing the deaths per million in US states run by Democratic governors with those run by Republican governors.

On my first day of quarantine from Majorca I thought I’d amuse myself by looking at US state stats by political affiliations. Deaths 67% higher in Democrat states, deaths per million 41% higher. Cases actually higher in Republican states. All data from Worldometers.

Looser lockdowns in Republican states and the fact that many are in the south explains it I would think. However, if I were the US President it’s something I’d be flagging daily in the run up to an election. Obviously runs counter to the media narrative.

Postcard From the Dolomites

Sounds like this reader had a very different experience to me. Sorry to read this.

I know you were in the Dolomites a few weeks ago and I seem to recall that you said things were relatively relaxed at that time. My wife and I arrived in Villabassa yesterday for a weeks’ walking in the mountains and I am sad to report that we have found ourselves in muzzle central.

In our hotel you are expected to wear muzzles in all public areas unless seated at a table in the restaurant or bar and sadly everyone is complying. On stepping outside I had assumed that at least in the streets people would be largely muzzle-free but not a bit of it. Outside in the town 75 to 80% of those walking around, including those who are clearly serious mountain walkers are muzzled. Most children are muzzled, even some of about two.

Today we have walked about nine miles from the town to the Lago di Braies. This is a glacial lake which attracts a lot of tourists in coaches plus some fairly keen walkers, such as us. On the way up we passed a fair number of people walking down in muzzles. Others when they saw us approaching put on their muzzles even though there was plenty of room to pass. I reckon about 30% of those we passed (or possibly a little more) fell into this category even though we we were out in the open and they quite literally passed us in a second or so.

If that was bad enough, it was far worse when we reached the lake. This was where we encountered the coach trippers and 90% were masked even though we were high up in the mountains. We saw 2 men fully masked riding mountain bikes up quite a steep hill and a masked couple having a snog! What is it about these people that they have reached such an irrational level of fear that they spoil their enjoyment of the fresh air and beautiful mountain scenery that they feel it necessary to act in a totally irrational manner?

Normally I love a holiday in the mountains but I fear that my experience of the last 24 hours is making me feel that it is one I shall quickly wish to forget.

Submitting Evidence to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus

A reader has come up with a sensible suggestion:

I am not sure how important the work of the APPG on Coronavirus will be to the Government’s ongoing approach but I assume it may have some relevance. This is obviously very worrying. Unfortunately, I do not fit into any of the categories from whom they would like evidence and the list of those that have provided evidence thus far does not inspire confidence that they will hear a balanced view. Hence, I would suggest you give more prominence to this issue in a future edition of Lockdown Sceptics and encourage some of your readers that do have the relevant expertise to submit evidence as soon as possible!

If you’d like to submit evidence to the Group, click here.

Italian Philosopher Becomes Lockdown Sceptic, Shunned by Colleagues

Nurses practised social distancing while protesting for better working conditions following the coronavirus pandemic in Rome’s Piazza del Popolo square, in June. Credit: Alessandra Tarantino/Associated Press

There’s in interesting article in the New York Times about Giorgio Agamben, a radical, left-wing philosopher whose been shunned by his Italian colleagues after coming out as a lockdown sceptic.

The part of the Italian intellectual establishment that calls itself “radical” has been Mr. Agamben’s milieu for half a century. His position on the coronavirus has cost him its support. Paolo Flores d’Arcais, the influential editor of the bimonthly MicroMega, accused Mr. Agamben of “ranting.” The newspapers La Repubblica, Corriere della Sera and Il Foglio all called him a negazionista regarding the coronavirus, using a word generally reserved for those who deny the Holocaust happened. Just as unexpected as these repudiations was the sudden receptivity to Mr. Agamben’s recondite philosophy in the pages of La Verità and Il Giornale, newspapers more often sympathetic to Mr. Salvini’s League.

A member of the radical Left, Agamben was very critical of the West’s “War on Terror”. In 2004, he was so alarmed by the U.S.’s new fingerprinting requirements for foreign visitors that he gave up a post at New York University rather than submit to them. He warned that these measures were only passing themselves off as temporary; they would inevitably become a normal part of peacetime life.

His argument about the coronavirus runs along similar lines: The emergency declared by public-health experts replaces the discredited narrative of “national security experts” as a pretext for withdrawing rights and privacy from citizens. “Biosecurity” now serves as a reason for governments to rule in terms of “worst-case scenarios.” This means there is no level of cases or deaths below which locking down an entire nation of 60 million becomes unreasonable. Many European governments, including Italy’s, have developed national contact tracing apps that allow them to track their citizens using cellphones.

Agamben has written a series of critical pieces about the Italian authorities’ response to the virus and they’ve been published in a single volume called Where Are We Now? The Epidemic as Politics. It hasn’t yet been translated into English, but it should be. Many of his sentiments will strike a chord with sceptics around the Anglosphere.

The politics of the pandemic expose a deeper ethical, social and even metaphysical erosion. Mr. Agamben cites Italians’ most beloved 19th-century novel, Alessandro Manzoni’s “The Betrothed,” which describes how human relations degenerated in Milan during the plague of 1630. People came to see their neighbors not as fellow human beings but as spreaders of pestilence. As panic set in, authorities executed those suspected of daubing houses with plague germs.

When a society loses its collective cool this way, the cost can be high. Rich, atomized, diverse, our society has a weak spot, and the coronavirus has found it. “For fear of getting sick,” Mr. Agamben writes, “Italians are ready to sacrifice practically everything – their normal living conditions, their social relations, their jobs, right down to their friendships, their loves, their religious and political convictions.”

In fact, “the threshold that separates humanity from barbarism has been crossed,” Mr. Agamben continues, and the proof is in Italians’ treatment of their dead. “How could we have accepted, in the name of a risk that we couldn’t even quantify, not only that the people who are dear to us, and human beings more generally, should have to die alone but also – and this is something that had never happened before in all of history from Antigone to today – that their corpses should be burned without a funeral?”

Worth reading in full.

Sir Humphrey Writes…

A retired Civil Servant has been in touch to take issue with last week’s post, “The Covid Civil Servant“, which in part blamed the Civil Service’s poor response to the coronavirus crisis to a lack of numeracy and scientific literacy.

As someone who worked in the Treasury for 21 years, in the final period of my working life, I don’t quite buy the line from your anonymous senior civil servant last week lamenting lack of civil service numeracy and scientific knowledge. During my time, the place acquired vastly more trained economists than when I had first arrived, the majority with postgraduate qualifications in the subject, along with more staff with graduate/postgraduate qualifications in other disciplines requiring sophisticated numeracy such as accounting and statistics. And although I never myself formally acquired any such expertise, I would not have survived a month without being very comfortable with handling numbers. Does this history mean that we became progressively wiser as a department? Does it hell. People who revel in numbers tend to be very uneasy with anything that can’t be captured in numbers, so narrowness, rigidity and sheer lack of imagination increasingly prevailed. The influence of the Treasury right across Government remained immense throughout my time there, and in that time it certainly imposed more widely than hitherto its own version of greater discipline in financial management across Whitehall departments and their related bodies. That didn’t make for better governance overall – there’s no panacea to be found in that direction. Also, the Senior Civil Service are not well paid by comparison with swathes of senior management with far less onerous responsibilities right across the rest of the public sector – that’s a big part of the problem.

Sweden’s Declining Case Numbers Are Due to Herd Immunity

Sweden is doing better than many other European countries when it comes to case numbers thanks to the fact that it didn’t impose a lockdown. The Times has more.

Figures from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control show that the infection rate in France is more than 60 per cent higher than that of Sweden. France implemented a strict lockdown in the spring and requires masks to be worn in many public areas but has a fortnightly infection rate of 60 cases per 100,000 people.

Sweden, which decided not to implement compulsory measures at that time and which rejected the use of masks, has a rate of 37 cases per 100,000 people. The government is recording between 200 and 300 new cases a day, with deaths down to three last Friday.

Anders Tegnell, the Swedish state epidemiologist leading the response to the pandemic, has noted, based on the statistics, that infection rates have increased in countries such Spain, Belgium and France during and following the mandatory wearing of masks in many public areas. “The belief that masks can solve our problem is very dangerous,” he said last week.

Worth reading in full.

A Left-Wing Reader Responds to Yesterday’s Letter From a Liberal Sceptic

I love getting emails like this.

I was so pleased that you published the email from the left-leaning lockdown sceptic in your latest update. This was really heartening to read, and made me feel more like I’m a legit sceptic. I have been reading Lockdown Sceptics since you started it but I have wondered from time to time whether I really belong, as I’m a Labour-voting Remainer. (I used to be a Guardian reader, too, but I knocked that on the head in early April when I cancelled my subscription because of the lamentably biased and narrow-minded nature of their coronavirus coverage).

I say I’m Labour-voting but if there was a general election tomorrow I don’t think there’s anyone I could vote for with a clear conscience. What a ship of fools.

Thanks for all you do. I would think I disagree with you on just about everything but scepticism about coronabollocks unites us all.

If you missed the “Letter From a Liberal Sceptic” yesterday, you can read it here.

Postcard From Munich

Will Oktoberfest happen this year?

A reader writes to tell me about his recent trip to Munich. Could have been better…

I’ve just returned from a weekend visiting a friend in Munich. It was… just ok. The German stereotypes of following the rules were very much in show: facemasks when moving around in any indoors or outdoors restaurant/bar area – so if you are coming in from the street to an outdoors restaurant area, you have to wear a mask from the street to the table. And everyone obeys: I barely saw anyone not wearing a mask where required (over mouth and nose) throughout my whole weekend. The beer halls were very much open though; apart from having to wear a mask for the regular loo trips it was relatively normal and we had some good conversations with men in leather shorts. Slightly odd that some tables in the beer hall were cordoned off, meaning that people were crammed into the tables that were available.

Had an interesting experience at a “seesauna” (lake sauna) the next day to try and get rid of the hangover from the beerhall. Very strict social distancing rules (although thankfully no masks in the sauna areas) – the two of us went into one sauna with an eight-person limit (there were seven there already) and got shouted out. A lot of rules which, combined with the experience of being in your natural state of dress with members of both sexes, made for a relatively stressful experience.

All in all, I was pleased to come home to our comparatively liberal (and increasingly ignored) covid rules!

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

A bonanza of songs today: “Anything You Say Now I’ll Believe” by the Flaming Lips, “Complete Control” by the Clash, “Land of Fear” by Julian Cope, “Turnstyled, Junkpiled” by Townes Van Zandt, “F.E.A.R.” by Ian Brown and “Look out There’s a Monster Coming” by the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band (trigger warning: all the band members are wearing black face).

Love in the Time of Covid

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums that are now open, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of attention. We’ve also just introduced a section where people can arrange to meet up for non-romantic purposes. We have a team of moderators in place to remove spam and deal with the trolls, but sometimes it takes a little while so please bear with us. You have to register to use the Forums, but that should just be a one-time thing. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A few 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 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 (and some of them are at risk of having to close again). 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! If they’ve made that clear to customers with a sign in the window or similar, so much the better. Don’t worry if your entries don’t show up immediately – we need to approve them once you’ve entered the data.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

I’ve created a permanent slot down here for people who want to buy (or make) a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and it has the advantage of not explicitly claiming you have a disability. But if you have no qualms about that (or you are disabled), you can buy a lanyard from Amazon saying you do have a disability/medical exemption here (now showing it will arrive between Oct 3rd to Oct 13th). The Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. You can get a “Hidden Disability” tag from ebay here and an “exempt” card with lanyard for just £3.99 from Etsy here.

Don’t forget to sign the petition on the UK Government’s petitions website calling for an end to mandatory face nappies in shops here (now over 29,500).

A reader has started a website that contains some useful guidance about how you can claim legal exemption.

And here’s a round-up of the scientific evidence on the effectiveness of mask (threadbare at best).

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the past 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. Doing these daily updates is a lot of work (although I have help from lots of people, mainly in the form of readers sending me stories and links). If you feel like donating, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here. If you want me to link to something, don’t forget to include the HTML code, i.e. a link.

And Finally…

Latest News

New Restrictions For Oldham, Pendle and Blackburn

Yesterday, the Government announced Oldham and parts of Blackburn and Pendle are facing extra restrictions to deal with local viral outbreaks. Residents in those areas are not allowed to socialise with anyone from outside their household, as of midnight tonight. Trouble is, the case numbers in all three areas are falling as you can see from the above table.

Carl Heneghan and Jason Oke wrote a post for the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine blog on Thursday urging the Government not to introduce any more restrictions in Oldham. They argue that decisions about whether to introduce local lockdowns should be based on hospitalisation and death data, not case data.

We consider that lockdown measures should be predicated on the impact of the disease. NHS England’s COVID-19 data provides information on the number of people admitted and in a Pennine Acute or Pennine Care Hospital with COVID (these hospitals cover Oldham, Rochdale and North Manchester).

The data shows that 1,252 beds are occupied across the Pennine Hospitals of which nine are occupied by COVID patients as the 9th of August. At the peak on the 12th of April, 290 beds were occupied by COVID patients.

The data also shows that admission remains low at a 7-day moving average of 3 to 4 patients per day, which is down from the preceding week.

In addition to the entirely unnecessary restrictions in Oldham, Pendle and Blackburn, Birmingham has been added to a watchlist as an “area of enhanced support”. The BBC has more.

The Labour leader said the council would announce “as soon as possible” what this meant for people in the city.

“If our previous warnings to keep doing the basics haven’t been enough, this has to be the wake-up call for everyone,” he said. “Wash your hands, wear face coverings wherever possible, keep two metres apart from others and get tested if you have COVID-19 symptoms.”

The Labour leader said the council would announce “as soon as possible” what this meant for people in the city.

“If our previous warnings to keep doing the basics haven’t been enough, this has to be the wake-up call for everyone,” he said.

“Wash your hands, wear face coverings wherever possible, keep two metres apart from others and get tested if you have COVID-19 symptoms.”

But why? Birmingham has 31 cases per 100,000 according to the latest figures, which is lower than it is London (50/100,000), according to the latest ONS Infection Survey data. If Birmingham has been added to the watchlist, why not London?

Incidentally, the latest Infection Survey – which shows no increase in cases on the previous week – also says: “There is no evidence from this survey to say that there is a difference in COVID-19 infection rates between different regions.”

Is the R Number Increasing?

SAGE has announced the R number has climbed above one for the first time since March and, as a result, the entire country may have to go into a second lockdown. According to the Telegraph:

A second national lockdown could be imposed, senior Government advisers have warned, as the upper limit of the R rate pushed over one for the first time since restrictions were lifted.

It continues:

Public Health England surveillance showed case detections in England increased from 5,763 to 6,418 in the week to August 16th, up 11%.

Daily cases are nearly double the number at the beginning of June when lockdown measures were eased. Oliver Johnson, a University of Bristol Professor of Information Theory, said: “The major concern is that R values of this magnitude do not leave a significant margin before the epidemic starts to grow in size again, and raise the possibility that some re-openings may need to be reversed to allow schools to open safely.”

What fresh hell is this? Not only is Public Health England’s data for the week ending August 16th at odds with the ONS Infection Survey data for the week ending August 13th, but an analysis by scientists at the universities of Leeds and Oxford indicates the recent increase in cases hasn’t translated into corresponding increases in hospital admissions and fatalities, even when allowing for the time lag between infections and death. Their analysis shows there should have been 35 fatalities a day by now, but just two deaths were recorded in English hospitals on Friday and none on Thursday, according to NHS England. Admissions are also continuing to fall and consultants say hospitals are “relatively empty” even in hotspots.

It’s time to prise these lockdown fanatics away from Boris Johnson’s ear.

Boris Returns to Cancer Care Crisis

“My advice to the good people of Britain is… don’t get cancer in 2020.”

According to today’s Times, scores of MPs, including several former ministers, have written to the Prime Minister urging him to do something about a backlog in cancer care that could lead to 30,000 unnecessary deaths in the next decade.

More than 100 MPs have written to Boris Johnson after the coronavirus lockdown caused severe disruption to cancer diagnoses and treatments. They have called on him to deliver an emergency boost to treatment capacity.

One senior oncologist has claimed that in a worst-case scenario the effects of the pandemic could result in 30,000 excess cancer deaths over the next decade.

In the letter, seen by the Times, the MPs write: “We urge you to work with your ministers to ensure that the NHS reacts more quickly to restore cancer services that have been badly disrupted due to the response to Covid.

“We are particularly concerned that the NHS’s plan appears to be limited to getting cancer services back to normal by the end of the year [but] this timescale is far too long. Many cancers can become untreatable in a matter of weeks.”

The signatories include Dan Poulter, a former health minister, Sir Ed Davey, a former energy secretary, and Sir Oliver Heald, a former Solicitor-General.

Research by Cancer Research UK charity indicates that in the 18 weeks since March 23rd about three million people missed out on vital screenings for bowel, breast and cervical cancer. In the same period about 315,000 fewer people than normal received an urgent suspected cancer referral and overall there were 38,000 fewer treatments.

Karol Sikora, a senior oncologist and co-founder of Rutherford Health, a private cancer treatment company, suggested that there could be up to 30,000 excess cancer deaths in the next ten years. He cited a study published last month in the journal Lancet Oncology, looking at the decline during lockdown in urgent cancer referrals by GPs. It calculated a worst-case scenario where an average six-month delay in these referrals would lead to nearly 9,300 excess deaths in the next decade.

Karol Sikora, a senior oncologist and co-founder of Rutherford Health, a private cancer treatment company, suggested that there could be up to 30,000 excess cancer deaths in the next ten years. He cited a study published last month in the journal Lancet Oncology, looking at the decline during lockdown in urgent cancer referrals by GPs. It calculated a worst-case scenario where an average six-month delay in these referrals would lead to nearly 9,300 excess deaths in the next decade.

If any readers have stories of their own cancer care being delayed or cancelled – or that of family members – please get in touch and I’ll publish them (always protecting your anonymity). You can email me here.

Postcard From Birmingham

A reader had a depressing experience in Birmingham city centre recently.

A month or so ago I had an appointment south of Birmingham and decided to travel via New Street station in the city centre.

The initial impression was of a sad, purposeless city, with almost everybody – myself included – shuffling along in a subdued state, going through the motions of life without zip or joy.

New Street Station presents a challenge at the best of times. Expect now an experience out of Kafka laced with 1980s spoof disaster movie Airplane!

Shortly having entered the cavernous underground bunker there was a confrontation with a large masked security official in a high viz jacket.

“You can’t get out this way!” he barked.

When I told him I was actually trying to get in, he aimed an arm in an opposing direction, towards another set of gates which looked promising at first glance, but were also keenly guarded by officials indicating another detour was required.

Oh, well.

At least there was an announcement on the PA stating some passengers will be exempt from mask-wearing. (Take-up 95%+ at a rough glance; you might want to include one to protect from the noxious fumes belching from trains waiting at covered platforms.)

Having completed the return journey a few hours later there was a requirement “to leave via the Yellow Zone”.

I tried to comply, thinking of Leslie Nielsen, emerged in an unfamiliar area, and ended up missing a connection at nearby Moor Street.

And now the bedwetting local council is anticipating lockdown with cases running rampant at, er, c30 per 100,000 of a demoralised local population…

All Party Parliamentary Group Recommends a ‘Zero Covid’ Strategy

A bedwetting group of MPs, led by the Liberal Democratic leadership hopeful Layla Moran, has urged the Government to commit to a ‘zero Covid’ strategy. The Standard has more.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on coronavirus called on the Government to maintain compulsory social distancing measures across the country until zero-Covid is achieved.

The MPs said working from home should be actively encouraged and COVID-19 screening should be introduced at transport hubs, shopping centres and supermarkets, in order to meet the goal.

So we should maintain current social distancing measures – and introduce mandatory temperature screening – until the virus has been completely eliminated?

Not only is permanently wiping out the virus completely unrealistic, it’s worth reminding ourselves of a few facts to put the risk it poses in context.

  • Half a million people die in the UK every year; to date, Covid has killed less than 10% of that number
  • 170,000 Britons die of heart disease and stroke every year, more than three times the number that have died of novel coronavirus
  • In the winter of 2017-18, there were 50,000 excess deaths in the UK due to flu and pneumonia; to date, ~46,000 have died of Covid-19
  • Only two British children aged between five and 14 have died of Covid, meaning children that age have a 1:3,500,000 chance of succumbing to the virus, lower than being struck by lightning
  • In Germany, 25,100 people died of seasonal influenza in 2017-18; to date, 9,328 Germans have died of Covid
  • Globally, around 57 million people die each year; to date, coronavirus has killed less than a million
  • Globally, in a typical year 1.6 million people die of diarrhoea; that’s twice the number that have died of Covid
  • John Ioannidis, Professor of Medicine at Stanford, has estimated that if you’re under 65 you’re more likely to die in a road traffic accident than succumb to the virus. However, he may be over-stating the risk. In a typical year, there are 1.1 million road traffic fatalities; in 2020, ~800,000 people have died of Covid

Incidentally, if you look at the APPG’s website, the ‘zero-Covid’ recommendation is not minuted or documented, there is no report containing the recommendation and the group’s inquiry hasn’t actually finished. There are hearings scheduled through into September and it’s still possible to submit evidence.

Could it be that Layla Moran is just grandstanding in the hope of shoring up her leadership credentials?

Beware: Plastic Shark

A reader spotted the above muzzled shark above a fish and chip shop in Oxford. She writes:

I snapped this in Oxford as mask-wearing customers queued into the street. Presumably the owner’s concerned that since cricket balls, flip-flops and cats are deemed deadly, it’ll only be a matter of time before his six feet model shark is listed as a killer vector too.

Care Home Cruelty

I received this heart-breaking email from a reader today. When will this needless cruelty end?

I am desperate and besides myself having received some information from my father’s care home today. It is only allowing one member of his family to visit him for 30 minutes once a fortnight. Full PPE, outdoors and at two metre distance.

What is most upsetting is that it is a reduction in what we have been managing to do to try to support him since March. We have been allowed by the care home to see him through double glazed patio doors for 30 minutes, twice a week. So down from four visits a fortnight to one.

I cannot see an end to these restrictions in care homes and I am now, more than ever, certain I will never see my father in person again before his natural death. There must be more to the end of a person’s life than this loneliness and being deprived of family support and love.

Please do print any aspects of this on the website as you feel fit.

A very very sad day for my family today.

Meanwhile, another reader has got in touch saying he’s been told by his friend’s care home that he’s not even able to send flowers. The guidance issued by the home includes the following gem: “We are unable, unfortunately, to accept any flowers, due to the inability to sanitize them.”

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Two today: “Ignorance is Bliss” by The Divine Comedy and “What a Fool Believes” by the Doobie Brothers.

Love in the Time of Covid

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums that are now open, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of attention. We’ve also just introduced a section where people can arrange to meet up for non-romantic purposes. We have a team of moderators in place to remove spam and deal with the trolls, but sometimes it takes a little while so please bear with us. You have to register to use the Forums, but that should just be a one-time thing. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A few 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 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 (and some of them are at risk of having to close again). 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. If they’ve made that clear to customers with a sign in the window or similar, so much the better. Don’t worry if your entries don’t show up immediately – we need to approve them once you’ve entered the data.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

I’ve created a permanent slot down here for people who want to buy (or make) a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and it has the advantage of not explicitly claiming you have a disability. But if you have no qualms about that (or you are disabled), you can buy a lanyard from Amazon saying you do have a disability/medical exemption here (now showing it will arrive between Oct 5th to Oct 15th). The Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. You can get a “Hidden Disability” tag from ebay here and an “exempt” card with lanyard for just £3.99 from Etsy here.

Don’t forget to sign the petition on the UK Government’s petitions website calling for an end to mandatory face nappies in shops here (now over 29,500).

A reader has started a website that contains some useful guidance about how you can claim legal exemption.

And here’s a round-up of the scientific evidence on the effectiveness of mask (threadbare at best).

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the past 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. Doing these daily updates is a lot of work, although I have help from several people. If you feel like donating, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here. If you want me to link to something, don’t forget to include the HTML code, i.e. a link.

And Finally…

I was on Any Questions last night. You can listen again at 1.10 pm today and on the BBC’s website here. Tried my best to put across the sceptical point of view although, needless to say, the other three panellists were not of the same mind.

Latest News

Bonkers Advisor to Scottish Government Warns of “Stream of Incoming Infections From England and Wales”

Professor Devi Sridhar, Bedwetter-of-the-Week

Apologies for being late on this one. Devi Sridhar, Professor of Global Public Health at Edinburgh University, had a piece in the New York Times on Saturday in which she warned of “a stream of incoming infections from England and Wales” and urged Nicola Sturgeon and other European leaders to impose a new quarantine policy whereby all visitors should be tested on arrival, quarantined for five days, and then tested again before being allowed out. “There has to be enforced isolation until two negative tests at least five days apart,” she wrote.

Yes, this will probably interfere with plans to enjoy the beaches of Marbella. But the summer, while infection rates still remain relatively low, is the only time to make this work.

Going into winter with hundreds of cases per day means risking a steep rise once temperatures cool, schools reopen and people head back indoors. It means risking a second round of national lockdowns, which would be catastrophic for mental health and for economies. (And let’s leave aside the question of whether or not it will actually be possible to get people to comply the second time around.)

This is un-evidenced nonsense, even by Prof Sridhar’s standards. She cites rising infections in Spain as a reason English visitors to Scotland could pose a threat, which is odd because any English holidaymakers returning from Spain have to quarantine for 14 days. And how many English people are planning to travel to Scotland for a second summer break, having just returned from a European holiday? She also takes it for granted that if the people of the United Kingdom don’t eliminate the virus in the remaining weeks of summer we face a catastrophic second wave this winter, ignoring the evidence that the virus has largely burnt itself out (and no thanks to the lockdown).

Prof Sridhar’s comments have been condemned by Willie Rennie, the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, for “feeding a divisive nationalist narrative without scientific evidence to back it up”.

“It’s news to me that people from England and Wales were responsible for the outbreaks we’ve seen in Aberdeen, Orkney, Lanarkshire and Glasgow,” he said.

Alan Cochrane in today’s Telegraph also has a pop.

Now as an epidemiologist we must take her view seriously but we are entitled to ask (a) is she right in her assessment if the risk and (b) is she wise in her use of language?

These are fractious times politically and the professor’s last suggestion that English visitors might be quarantined in Scotland led to several SNP demonstrators staging a stupid anti-English stunt at the border after it was backed by Nicola Sturgeon.

The professor has ‘form’ for inflaming feelings and landed in trouble when she said that Unionists were anti-Scottish. She later withdrew that assertion, saying that she had “misspoke” – whatever that means.

Then there was the occasion the professor appeared to be opposing the SNP government over the timing of schools reopening only to fall into line within 24 hours.

Perhaps it’s time to dial in that ego and retreat from the public stage, Prof Sridhar?

What Does the Hydroxychloroquine Controversy Tell Us About Medical Science?

There’s an excellent essay in the Tablet about the politics of hydroxychloroquine by Norman Doidge, a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, and published author. It doesn’t take sides on the issue of whether HCQ is an effective prophylactic or treatment for COVID-19, but explores the question of why the issue has been so controversial and what that tells us about the state of medical science.

Early in the coronavirus pandemic, a survey of the world’s frontline physicians showed hydroxychloroquine to be the drug they considered the most effective at treating COVID-19 patients. That was in early April, shortly after a French study showed it was safe and effective in lowering the virus count, at times in combination with azithromycin. Next we were told hydroxychloroquine was likely ineffective, and also dangerous, and that that French study was flawed and the scientist behind it worthy of mockery. More studies followed, with contradictory results, and then out came what was hailed by some as a definitive study of 96,000 patients showing the drug was most certainly dangerous and ineffective, and indeed that it killed 30% more people than those who didn’t take it. Within days, that study was retracted, with the editor of one of the two most respected medical journals in the Western world conceding it was “a monumental fraud.” And on it went.

Not only are lay people confused; professionals are. All that seems certain is that there is something disturbing going on in our science, and that if and when the “perfect study” were to ever come along, many won’t know what to believe.

We live in a culture that has uncritically accepted that every domain of life is political, and that even things we think are not political are so, that all human enterprises are merely power struggles, that even the idea of “truth” is a fantasy, and really a matter of imposing one’s view on others. For a while, some held out hope that science remained an exception to this. That scientists would not bring their personal political biases into their science, and they would not be mobbed if what they said was unwelcome to one faction or another. But the sordid 2020 drama of hydroxychloroquine—which saw scientists routinely attacked for critically evaluating evidence and coming to politically inconvenient conclusions—has, for many, killed those hopes.

Phase 1 of the pandemic saw the near collapse of the credible authority of much of our public health officialdom at the highest levels, led by the exposure of the corruption of the World Health Organization. The crisis was deepened by the numerous reversals on recommendations, which led to the growing belief that too many officials were interpreting, bending, or speaking about the science relevant to the pandemic in a politicized way. Phase 2 is equally dangerous, for it shows that politicization has started to penetrate the peer review process, and how studies are reported in scientific journals, and of course in the press.

Worth reading in full.

Postcard From St Tropez

The reader who reported on life at a campsite in France, has a follow-up about staying at another campsite in St Tropez. Doesn’t sound too bad.

Moving on from rural France where life seemed more relaxed and the mood just so, we’ve moved onto a campsite near St Tropez.

We spent the morning at the beach – no masks. The afternoon in the pool – mask free. We popped to a supermarket – masks obligatory. We were refused entry to a small shop because our small child wasn’t wearing a mask (not against the law in France), we walked out in disgust.

We went to see the evening entertainment in the campsite, laughably bad – a Johnny Hallyday impersonator, but that wasn’t the funniest part (although awful, irony lost on the French), the audience in the open air amphitheater were forced to wear masks, yet sitting metres apart. The bar and restaurant area although 20 metres away, no masks required.

The ultra obedient French Poodles had obeyed the rules and we had been sent to Coventry.

To summarise the day:

Beach – no masks
Pool – no masks (yet in close proximity)
Bar and restaurant – no masks
Open air amphitheater – mask up everyone, inc Poodles.

My understanding of the French understanding of the virus seems to be that it avoids beaches, swimming pools and bars but not open air theatres.

It’s one hell of a clever virus.

Melbourne’s Descent into Hellish Dystopia

Members of the Australian Defence Force walk through Fitzroy Gardens on August 10th in Melbourne. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

There’s a good piece in Spiked by James Bolt, a resident of Melbourne about the city’s slide into totalitarianism.

A couple are watching their child play in a playground. They are fined by the police. They are further than five kilometres from their home.

A man leaves his home at 9.30pm to buy some cigarettes. He too is fined: $1,652. He has left his house during the city-wide curfew, which comes in at 8pm.

On Facebook, two men plan a protest against Victoria’s restrictions. Police execute a search warrant and seize their mobile phones and a computer. One is charged with incitement because he wanted to organise a protest – public gatherings are limited to two people and only for exercise (physical, not of our basic rights).

This is the situation in Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city, right now. In a supposedly liberal democracy.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Jeffrey Tucker, Editorial Director of the American Institute for Economic Research, has written a good article on the “tyranny without limit” in Melbourne.

Is This the World’s Best Broadcaster?

Why don’t we have a British version of Alan Jones on Sky News? The Sky News Australia commentator has been speaking truth to power throughout the pandemic. Here’s his latest jeremiad. Gold, as usual.

Meanwhile, Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton has suggested face masks should be mandatory every year to prevent people catching seasonal flu. The Mail has the story.

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton indicated on Tuesday elements of the restrictive lockdown protocols could be here to stay well after the state defeats COVID-19.

“The flu isn’t as severe as COVID-19, but it is still deadly because millions and millions of people get infected,” he explained.

About 3,000 Australians usually die every year from the seasonal flu, but infection rates have been trending down since April.

“With all the restrictions put in place because of COVID, it has absolutely brought the flu in check,” Sutton said.

This is what happens if you don’t stand up to the tyrants, folks.

Seafood Restaurant in Whitstable Bans 12-Year-Olds Due to Covid Risk

A reader has written in to tell me about a nasty experience in Whitstable. Sounds completely insane.

Sad scenes in Whitstable, Kent today after my two small kids were turned away from a popular local restaurant.

I don’t usually go in for public shamings, but I was so staggered by this abject idiocy that I felt compelled to write in. I’d booked a table for my father and two children (aged six and four) at Crab & Winkle, a popular seafood restaurant overlooking Whitstable harbour. On arrival, I discovered the previously normal entrance had been converted into the kind of arrangement you might expect to find in a nuclear power station, complete with reinforced door, tiny window and alert buzzer.

After pressing said buzzer, a lady in a face visor swiftly appeared and proceeded to talk to me through the two defensive shields that now separated us. Unfortunately, rather than extending us a warm welcome, she was only able to inform me that children under 12 were not allowed in the restaurant due to the risk of them spreading the virus.

Somewhat taken aback, I asked a) why this rule wasn’t mentioned to me when I’d made my booking on the phone, and b) why it only applies to under 12s, given all the evidence pointing to younger kids being the least likely transmitters.

Her explanation was that children under 12 are often unable to remain seated during a meal, and that they can’t risk having kids running amok, passing on their deadly germs to other diners.

There was little point in me highlighting the absurdity of this policy, so we turned on our heels and took a gamble on another distinguished Whitstable eatery, The Lobster Shack, which I’m pleased to report had a far more relaxed (i.e. not utterly insane) approach to hospitality.

Postcard From Carcassonne

A reader tells me he had a good experience in the medieval town of Carcassonne in France.

We arrived back from Carcassonne yesterday, after an excellent few days pottering around the medieval city, as well as shopping and dining out in the (often overlooked) attractive city of Carcassonne itself. We stayed at the Ibis Styles hotel, which was great. There were masks everywhere – even when getting up from the table to get a fresh croissant – but that was the only irritation. The French public seem to have a much more sane attitude than we do. Yes, they wear masks, but social distancing is completely ignored: the restaurants and streets are rammed; the swimming pool at our hotel was open as normal; nobody veers out of the way to avoid you; there are no ludicrous perspex screens between tables, nor enforced hand-sanitisations. After our visit, we spent a lovely few days at a friend’s house a few hours away, with 20 or so others, at an anniversary celebration. The quarantine announcement came and nobody fled to the border. We simply opened another beer.

I am now deeply irritated to be under house arrest due to an arbitrary diktat of a government that is clearly out of control. I will obviously use my common sense in that regard – but it is worrying that the great British people are still not up in arms.

News From Tanzania

Interesting tidbit from Tanzania from a regular reader.

My wife and I have friends in Tanzania, one of whom is a headteacher at a large city school and who sent the message below, which might interest you. Bear in mind that the classes there are very large, with over 70 children per class, sometimes more than 100, sitting shoulder to shoulder. Facilities at the schools are very basic. Much of the local housing is even more basic and crowded. And Tanzania is one of the few African countries to shun lockdowns. Yet our friend reports not a single Covid case in his school…

Sceptical Covid Painting

‘Sanity, Her Son and the Credulous’ by Jordan Henderson

This painting, ‘Sanity, Her Son and the Credulous’, was done by Jordan Henderson (not the Liverpool midfielder). Jordan is an artist from Washington State in the United States. He works in oil on canvas and charcoal on paper. A portfolio of his works can be viewed at jordanhendersonfineart.com.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Two today: “Blind Leading the Blind” by Mumford and Sons and “Sleepwalking Past Hope” by HIM

Love in the Time of Covid

Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway as Bonnie and Clyde

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums that are now open, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of attention (including this piece on Fox News). We have a team of moderators in place to remove spam and deal with the trolls, but sometimes it takes a little while so please bear with us. You have to register to use the Forums, but that should just be a one-time thing. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

A few 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 (and some of them are at risk of having to close again). 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.

A reader has put forward a good suggestion.

I was wondering if your map of businesses who have opened could be expanded to businesses who display “No mask? We won’t ask” sign? That would allow us mask-refusers to know where we are safe to visit without risking a drama with a Covid loon, and also reward those plucky businesses with our custom. It’s been interesting to see how the Covid terror only seems to last as long as financial necessity allows (note previously hysterical pub landlords get much less worried when they are allowed to re-open) so I’d be interested to see if a line of mask free customers outside one shop tempted its neighbours to risk the plague.

“Mask Exempt” lanyards

I’ve created a permanent slot down here for people who want to buy (or make) a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and it has the advantage of not explicitly claiming you have a disability. But if you have no qualms about that (or you are disabled), you can buy a lanyard from Amazon saying you do have a disability/medical exemption here (now showing it will arrive between Oct 2nd to Oct 12th). The Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. You can get a “Hidden Disability” tag from ebay here and an “exempt” card or just £2.79 from Etsy here.

Don’t forget to sign the petition on the UK Government’s petitions website calling for an end to mandatory face nappies in shops here (now over 29,000). The Government responded to this petition today. Usual balls. You can read the response here.

A reader has started a website that contains some useful guidance about how you can claim legal exemption.

And here’s a round-up of the scientific evidence on the effectiveness of mask (threadbare at best).

A reader reports that mask-wearing fever in Malvern hasn’t yet reached epidemic proportions.

My wife and I had our first experience of a hotel since lockdown when we visited Malvern and failed to realise that muzzles are compulsory in the communal areas of the hotel. We were told by reception on entering that masks were compulsory and were handed a Ziploc bag with two disposable baby blue face nappies (which remained undisturbed in the Ziploc throughout our stay). The General Manager was a lovely chap and when my wife apologised for forgetting her face mask responded that the whole thing was utterly preposterous.

In the hotel lobby there was a couple having a drink (un-muzzled) and nearby a couple standing up who weren’t having a drink (muzzled). The virus is very clever and only punishes unmuzzled drinkers. We went for a drink at Wetherspoon’s where lip service was being paid to the rules and only one of the serving staff was muzzled (presumably by choice).

Generally, in the street the usual leapers were wearing face coverings but the majority of people were not although there seem to be general obeisance in the shops.

Bedwetters of the week had to be an Anglo-French couple in their early 30s who arrived both with face coverings in the dining room and asked the Romanian waiter (whose muzzle had slipped below his nose) for two kettles of boiling water so that they could sterilise the cutlery…

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the past 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. Doing these daily updates is a lot of work (although I have help from several people, including one indefatigable techie who doesn’t want to be named). If you feel like donating, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here.

And Finally…

In our latest London Calling podcast, James Delingpole and I have our usual moan about the Government’s mishandling of the crisis, focusing on the French quarantine rules this week. Also, we discuss our summer reading and what we’ve been watching recently. Scintillating stuff! You can listen here and subscribe on iTunes here.

Latest News

Handy Cock Sacrifices Scapegoat in Bid to Save Political Career

Matt Hancock has axed Public Health England! The Telegraph has the story.

Public Health England (PHE) is to be scrapped and replaced by a new body specifically designed to protect the country against a pandemic by early next month, the Telegraph can disclose.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock will this week announce a merger of the pandemic response work of PHE with NHS Test and Trace into a new body, called the National Institute for Health Protection, modelled on Germany’s Robert Koch Institute.

The Health Secretary, who returns to work after a UK holiday this week, wants to give PHE’s replacement time to be set up before a feared surge in coronavirus cases this autumn.

That last sentence is ominous. Does the Government really believe there’s a second wave heading our way from across the English Channel? Apparently so.

A senior minister told the Telegraph: “We want to bring together the science and the scale in one new body so we can do all we can to stop a second coronavirus spike this autumn.

“The National Institute for Health Protection’s goal will be simple: to ensure that Britain is one of the best equipped countries in the world to fight the pandemic.”

What is this “senior minister” talking about? The pandemic is as good as over. (See below for a debunking of the ‘second wave’ hypothesis by a Professor of Genetics).

So who will run Britain’s version of the Robert Koch Institute? Carl Heneghan? Karol Sikora? David Spiegelhalter? Don’t be silly. No, the name in the frame is Dido Harding, Conservative life peer and head of England’s disastrous test-and-trace programme.

Mr Hancock is seeking someone with experience of both health policy and the private sector to run it. Baroness Harding, the former chief executive of TalkTalk who heads up NHS Test and Trace, is tipped for the role.

Talk about failing upwards! To date, Harding’s main claims to fame are presiding over a cyber-attack affecting tens of thousands of customers while Chief Executive of TalkTalk and overseeing NHSX’s test-and-trace app which has now been abandoned, costing the taxpayer £10 billion. Her appointment would be controversial since she’s married to Conservative MP John Penrose who sits on the advisory board of the think tank “1828” which has called for PHE to be scrapped.

I published a piece by Rob Lyons calling for PHE to be scrapped on May 10th so I suppose I should be happy. And there’s little doubt it’s done a terrible job of coordinating England’s response to the crisis. But shouldn’t Matt Hancock take responsibility for those failures? According to Nick Davies, programme director at the Institute of Government, PHE has “direct accountability to Matt Hancock”. And how will the new National Institute for Health Protection differ from the National Institute for Health Research, headed by Chris Whitty? Or is that being scrapped as well? Incidentally, PHE replaced an organisation called the Health Protection Agency. Does this mean that when the National Institute for Health Protection is blamed for some other failure in 10 years time it will be replaced with a revamped version of PHE?

Incidentally, if this move does prove to be politically effective, which quango will be next? The Government is spoilt for choice, obviously, but my money’s on Ofqual, the English exams regulator. It isn’t exactly covering itself in glory when it comes to this year’s A-level results and the crisis will only deepen next week with GCSE results due to come out.

According to the Sunday Times:

In an about-turn, Ofqual issued new guidance yesterday allowing schools to use the grades predicted by teachers to appeal against pupils’ results.

However, late Saturday night, Ofqual said the policy was “being reviewed” by its board and that further information would be released “in due course”.

This left Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary, exposed because it broke the “triple lock” he had promised A-level and GCSE pupils only 72 hours earlier.

On Wednesday, Williamson said appeals could be made on the basis of mock exams. But under the new rules, mock results cannot trump teachers’ predictions.

Neil Ferguson Based IFR Estimate on Tiny Sample

There’s a fascinating Twitter thread by Graham Neary in which he drills down into how Neil Ferguson and his team came up with an estimated Infection Fatality Rate (IFR) of 0.9%. (The real figure is closer to 0.1%). Apparently, it was based on an analysis of the passengers on six flights that departed from Wuhan between January 30th and February 1st. Out of the 689 passengers, only six tested positive for Covid. That – and that alone – was the basis for the initial IFR estimate.

Congratulations to Neary for a sterling bit of detective work. For those who aren’t on Twitter, I’ve unrolled the thread here. Neary concludes: “As we live through the consequences of economic depression and the (hopefully temporary) destruction of our way of life, remember that it all comes back to the belief that finding six people with Covid on six flights was a good way to estimate how many people had the disease.”

Who’s Managing the Covid Crisis?

Is this the head of the new National Institute for Health Protection?

A reader has posed an interesting question.

As a retired manager, one aspect of our current ludicrous actions on Covid that annoys me is that there seems to be no attempt to operate even the most basic principles of project-management. There seems to be no analysis, no plan, no objectives, no identification of options, no targets, no idea of what success looks like, no statement of the ‘endgame’ and no cost benefit analysis.

The original objective of “flatten the curve, protect the NHS and save lives” has clearly now been achieved but we have carried on with a kind of bizarre game of covid ‘ring-a-roses’ as we all panic about test results with no idea what we are trying to achieve?

I just wondered if there might be a Carl Heneghan of the management world who could usefully comment on the Covid hoo-ha from a management perspective?

If a Carl Heneghan of the management world is reading this and would like to write something about the Government’s colossal mismanagement of this crisis, please get in touch. Although the Telegraph’s Jeremy Warner is doing a pretty good job.

Global Law Firms Prepare to Sue UK

Construction workers on Crossrail, in London, in February. Building was halted during the pandemic by the mayor, Sadiq Khan. Photograph: Leon Neal/Getty

According to the Guardian, international law firms are lining up to sue the British Government on behalf of clients who’ve lost money as a result of the lockdown.

Governments around the world – including the UK – face a wave of lawsuits from foreign companies who complain that their profits have been hit by the pandemic.

Webinars and presentations shared with clients reveal that leading global law firms anticipate governments around the world will soon face claims over their response to the COVID-19 crisis. The actions are being brought under investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) clauses which are embedded in trade and investment agreements and allow foreign investors and firms to sue other countries’ governments.

The claims are heard in highly secretive ad hoc tribunals before a panel of three judges. Often it is not apparent that a case is being brought until the panel sits.

The law firm Alston & Bird used a recent webinar to predict that the UK will be sued over Sadiq Khan’s decision to close Crossrail construction sites during the pandemic. The decision was at odds with the government’s policy of allowing sites to operate throughout lockdown, an inconsistency that they say opens up the way for a legal challenge.

Law firm Reed Smith has predicted that measures taken by governments to deal with the crisis are affecting investments “directly and significantly and could give rise to substantial claims”.

And Ropes & Gray has issued an alert advising clients to consider actions brought under investment treaties as “a powerful tool to recover or prevent loss resulting from COVID-19-related government actions”.

More power to their elbows.

Three Months to Global Herd Immunity

A Professor of Genetics who’s a regular reader of Lockdown Sceptics has sent me a quick and dirty analysis of when the world is likely to achieve herd immunity.

I’ve looked at how the global prevalence has been changing over the last many months, if one eliminates the influence of massively increased levels of testing. Bottom line – it has been creeping up, but really not changed that much overall (median has risen from just over 2-3% to 3-4%). Declines in some places are matched by increases elsewhere. I suspect we’ve reached the peak though, and the next few weeks and months will see the global curve start to roll over and decline.

Now, given that in the UK the prevalence is falling by ~5% per day, if we assume NO new infections then this means the virus is detectable in a person on average for about 20 days. However, we know some new infections are occurring, and so the virus detection window is probably something more like 10 days (or even less!). Using this 10 day guesstimate, and a steady prevalence of 3-4%, then this means that every 10 days another 3-4% of people are getting infected globally. There are many caveats to this – but these numbers would mean that to get to 30% infected (Carl H’s estimate of what is needed for herd immunity) will take only three months. Or if you want to go with the insanely high pantsdown requirement of 80%, then this will take one year globally. In the UK’s case, we were one of the first countries to see the virus spread widely – and it actually rose to >40% prevalence in both Pillar 1 and 2 datasets late March. So we definitely reach the CH level for herd immunity some time ago, and also the NF required level more recently or soon. This has to be why the virus has been fading away naturally.

And one final line of argumentation for that… assuming a 0.26% IFR, and 41k deaths in the UK, indicates ~16M (41k/0.0026) have been infected, which is 24% of the UK population. Assume a 0.1% IFR and this goes to 61%. And these numbers are absolute minimum values, as the PCR assay has quite a high false negative rate!

Government and the people need to know this, as they are all currently “scared to lose their fear”! Mass hysteria exists in extremis, and will not end until our ‘leaders’ and the people understand reality. That said, most people I talk to think its all a nonsense and a scam of some sort – so there is hope!

Fishy Data

A reader has spotted a curious cause of death.

Having just read in today’s Sunday Telegraph that a man was killed in a boat off Darwin, Australia when a mackerel flew out of the water hitting him in the chest I am left wondering if the fish came in on the second wave will it be reported as a Covid death?

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Three today: “Stitched Up” by John Mayer and Herbie Hancock, “Dead Souls” by Joy Division and “Don’t Fall” by the Chameleons.

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 (and some of them are at risk of having to close again). 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.

Love in the Time of Covid

Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway as Bonnie and Clyde

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums that are now open, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of attention (including this piece on Fox News). We have a team of moderators in place to remove spam and deal with the trolls, but sometimes it takes a little while so please bear with us. You have to register to use the Forums, but that should just be a one-time thing. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

I’ve created a permanent slot down here for people who want to buy (or make) a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and it has the advantage of not explicitly claiming you have a disability. But if you have no qualms about that (or you are disabled), you can buy a lanyard from Amazon saying you do have a disability/medical exemption here (now showing it will arrive between Sept 30th to Oct 9th). The Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. You can get a “Hidden Disability” tag from ebay here and an “exempt” card or just £2.79 from Etsy here.

Don’t forget to sign the petition on the UK Government’s petitions website calling for an end to mandatory face nappies in shops here (now over 29,000). The Government responded to this petition today. Usual balls. You can read the response here.

A reader has started a website that contains some useful guidance about how you can claim legal exemption.

And here’s a round-up of the scientific evidence on the effectiveness of mask (threadbare at best).

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the past 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. Doing these daily updates is a lot of work (although I have help from several people, including one indefatigable techie who doesn’t want to be named). If you feel like donating, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links I should include in future updates, email me here.

And Finally…

A reader has produced this sticker, printed a ton of them and is handing them out to local shops. A surprising number are displaying them in their windows. Congratulations, Sir. You are my Sceptic of the Week.

Fewer Dead Souls?

By Zugzwang

In a previous essay,  I speculated that somewhere in the bowels of Public Health England (PHE) there was someone who had worked out, like Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov, a method of making use of dead souls. At the time, I wondered if these dead, reported daily on the Government’s Covid dashboard, were being created literally out of nothing, as there was no trace of them in the detailed death tabulations produced by the ONS. As it turns out, that part of my speculation was incorrect. 

The Chichikov in question was a Professor Newton (John, not Isaac) who had decided at an early stage of the epidemic to define death-by-Covid in such a way that he could borrow genuine deaths that were properly registered as being from other causes and claim them, for the indefinite future, provided the deceased had tested positive at some point for COVID-19. He feared, it seems, that without this resource, PHE might have been “underestimating deaths caused by the virus in the early stages”. This is a very strange explanation, as one thing that was absolutely not achieved was to avoid underestimation in the early stages. You may recall a chart (originated by Carl Heneghan and reproduced in my earlier essay) that showed clearly that PHE had underestimated Covid-related deaths during the peak of  the epidemic, but had been making up ground to an ever increasing degree, more or less ever since. Under the special definition adopted, PHE was able to continue combing through registered deaths and matching them up retrospectively with the NHS England numbers of people who had, at some some time in the past, tested positive.

Why does this matter? And why is it so crazily like nineteenth-century Russian satire? It has really mattered a great deal, in all manner of ways. The main purpose of daily statistics is – how could it be otherwise? – to give the Government, and the rest of us, a daily unfolding view of the epidemic. Although death statistics tell us mainly how many people were getting infected three weeks earlier, and so are backward looking, the trend in the curve can be projected forward (within some credible interval) to tell us the direction of travel. Deaths, in this world, are relatively hard currency, compared with the results of PCR tests. Large numbers of deaths frighten people (erode confidence, if you will) whereas a well-defined trend in the right direction does the reverse. If you are not in the business of deliberately maintaining fear in the interest of some wider purpose, it makes sense to tell the truth, and even more sense to give a grounded analysis of what the numbers are saying. With that in mind, let us turn to the difference between the PHE-defined numbers of Covid deaths and the newly-cleansed series (where you have to die within 28 days of testing positive to be counted).

What we need from these numbers (and so, one would think, does Mr Hancock) is a feel for how large the numbers are now – the direction of travel if there is one – and where the process terminates (if it does). The problem with the published numbers is that they have not only failed to deliver on all three of these objectives, but have obscured and muddied our understanding of the truth. 

The following chart picks up the story at a point when relations between the two narratives were just starting to break down:

From this we can see that the published deaths exaggerated the true position hugely. By the end of July, the daily total was four times higher than it should have been, and by the end it was five times. We had a report on August 11th of 100 deaths. On the new basis, the number should have been 11. Yes, 11. The numbers actually dying on an individual day have fallen more than that, and it now emerges that only on one day this month have the deaths exceeded 10. Over the last week, total deaths are actually lower than the equivalent number in Italy. So the cumulative total has encouraged us to maintain an unnecessary and unhealthy anxiety, as well as creating the false impression that we have a higher infection fatality ratio than any other country in Europe. 

What about the direction of travel? Well, we should have been told weeks ago by the Government that deaths were falling fast, rather than that they were mysteriously plateauing, thus showing the difficulty of controlling the epidemic. This is the trend since the beginning of July, with a trendline that projects quite clearly (and with a very decent R-squared of 0.93)  that deaths should be around zero by about now.  

And that, indeed, delivers the third item, namely an end-point. Of course, there are still about 600 people in hospital in England, and about 10% of them are in ventilation, so the numbers will not actually be zero every day. But we can expect them to trickle along near that level.

I hope you will be saying to yourself that this ignores the elephant. What the Government has been doing is continuing to operate under the false assumption that our resources should be devoted to combating an epidemic that finished many weeks ago. The numbers have borrowed deaths from elsewhere and dressed them up as something they were not. Where did they come from? Chichikov does not need to balance his books, but we now know that these are genuine deaths that could reasonably be classed as part of the collateral damage of the lockdown approach. We know that there is a really frightening backlog of people who should have been screened for cancer, or taken into hospital following heart attacks or strokes. Many of these people will actually die, as some have already, and their numbers will only increase if we do not urgently go back to business as normal, at least in healthcare.