Latest News

8pm Curfew Imposed in Melbourne by Power-Crazed Premier

Deserted Bourke Street after a citywide curfew was introduced in Melbourne, Victoria. Photograph: Erik Anderson/EPA

After reading yesterday’s “Postcard From Melbourne” I didn’t think things could get any worse in the capital of Victoria. But yesterday the power-crazed Premier of the state – Daniel Andrews, known as Kim Jong Dan – announced tough new “Stage 4” restrictions in metropolitan Melbourne, including an 8pm curfew. This looks like another instance of what I’ll call the “collapsing skyscraper” rule of this unending catastrophe. Being in lockdown is like falling through a collapsing skyscraper. Every time you think you’ve come to the bottom and your feet have found solid ground, the floor gives way again.

Here is a list of the “Stage 4” measures introduced from 6pm yesterday and due to last for six weeks:

  • The “state of emergency” in Victoria has been upgraded to a “state of disaster”, meaning police can now enter your home to carry out spot checks even if you don’t give them permission and they don’t have a warrant.
  • Between the hours of 8pm and 5am, you’re not allowed to leave your homes except for work, medical care and caregiving.
  • Outside those hours, you may only leave your home for four reasons: shopping for food and essential items, care and caregiving, daily exercise and work. “We can no longer have people simply out and about for no good reason whatsoever,” said Kim Jong Dan.
  • Daily exercise can only take place within a 5km radius of your home and cannot last longer than an hour.
  • You cannot exercise in groups of more than two, even if they’re members of the same household.
  • Apart from daily exercise, you are only allowed to leave your home once a day for essential supplies and food.
  • In the whole of Victoria, you cannot buy more than two of certain essential items, including dairy, meat, vegetables, fish and toilet paper.
  • Schools have closed again, with all Victoria school students returning to remote learning from Wednesday (except for vulnerable children and children of permitted workers). Childcare and kindergarten will be closed from Thursday.
  • Golf and tennis venues, which were open, have now been closed.
  • Weddings will no longer be allowed from Thursday, and funerals will be limited to 10 people.
  • Face nappies anywhere outside your home have been mandatory for people in metropolitan Melbourne since July 22nd, but that rule has now been extended to the entire state of Victoria.
  • You cannot have visitors or go to another person’s house unless it is for the purpose of giving or receiving care. However, you can leave your house to visit a person if you are in an “intimate personal relationship” with them, even during curfew hours. So no “bonk ban”.
  • If you have a holiday home or were planning a holiday outside Melbourne, tough cheese. You must remain in the city for the next six weeks.
  • The maximum fine for breaching a health order currently stands at $1,652, but Kim Jong Dan said he would have more to say about penalties later today, i.e. he’s going to increase them.

These measures were prompted by 671 new cases of coronavirus on Sunday and seven more deaths. That’s up from 295 new cases last Wednesday, but down from 723 on Friday. It was that spike on Friday – the highest daily total in Victoria to date – that prompted Kim Jong Dan to unveil the new restrictions yesterday.

But could the increase be due to a corresponding increase in testing? It certainly looks that way.

Victoria tested almost 43,000 on Sunday, July 26th, twice as many as on normal days, and the peak on Wednesday could be due to the few days delay before the results come through. In addition, a percentage of the positive results are likely due to the extensive contact tracing introduced in the past few weeks, with targeted testing of those who’ve been in contact with other infected people.

It looks like a familiar pattern: on the advice of public health officials, a political leader ramps up testing and introduces a track-and-trace programme, then, when the number of cases inevitably increases, the leader panics and introduces draconian new measures.

How long before bungling Boris introduces another new set of random restrictions here?

Stop Press: A “Major Incident” was declared in Greater Manchester yesterday in response to alleged increases in coronavirus infection rates across “multiple localities”. (Almost certainly an artefact of increased testing, as explained below.) Major Incidents are typically declared after a terror attack or natural disaster and mean a region can access extra national resources if necessary, with the police able to draft in the army if they need support. Looks like Manchester is in the frame to be the Melbourne of the UK.

Oxford Professor: Covid Cases in England Are Not Rising

Morten Morland’s cartoon in today’s Times

Carl Heneghan has struck again. The Professor of Evidence-Based Medicine at Oxford wrote a blog post yesterday in which he showed that the alleged increase in the number of infected people in England – the pretext for locking down four-and-a-half million people last week – is an artefact of increased testing.

First, he looks at the raw data which seems to show the number of positive cases in Pillar 1 (testing in healthcare settings) trending down and the number in Pillar 2 (community settings) trending up.

That alone is sufficient to demolish the case for imposing more restrictions – if an uptick in community cases isn’t resulting in an uptick in healthcare cases, then it’s nothing to worry about. But Prof Heneghan then goes on to show that the increase in the number of Pillar 2 positives is entirely a function of increased Pillar 2 testing.

However, what happens if you adjust for any change in testing over time? On July 1st – the seven day moving average of testing was 41,109 for Pillar 1 and 43,161 in Pillar 2. By July 31st, the Pillar, 1 seven day average for testing had increased to 49,543 (a 20% increase); while the Pillar 2 had risen by much more – by 82% to 78,522 tests.

The next graph shows what happens when you adjust for the number of tests done and then standardise to per 100,000 tests. Pillar 1 is seen to be still trending down, but Pillar 2 is now flatlining. The increase in the number of cases detected is likely due to the increase in testing in Pillar 2.

Prof Heneghan’s conclusion – typically understated – is that the Government doesn’t know its arse from its elbow.

Inaccuracies in the data and poor interpretation will often lead to errors in decisions about imposing restrictions, particularly if these decisions are done in haste and the interpretation does not account for fluctuations in the rates of testing.

Heneghan also gave an interview to the Telegraph‘s Science Editor Sarah Knapton yesterday in which he said the apparent increase in cases in Greater Manchester, East Lancashire and parts of West Yorkshire disappears if you control for: (a) the date the tests were taken rather than when the results came through; and (b) the increase in Pillar 2 testing.

“The northern lockdown was a rash decision,” he said. “Where’s the rise? By date of test through July there’s no change if you factor in all the increased testing that’s going on.

“As areas are tested, like Oldham, then there’s a slight rise in detected cases, asymptomatics.

“It’s not clear if these are false positives, or if these folk have viable virus or just RNA fragments detected by a test threshold that picks up minute traces of RNA.

“While you get these small clusters, which will have been occurring for some time, they have not led to an overall increase in cases

“The Government needs to allow the local public health teams to do their job when localised clusters emerge.”

Mapping the coronavirus trend by result date appears to show a slight increase in cases over the past few weeks, but based on specimen date – a more reliable measure – cases appear to have plateaued and may even be falling.

Between July 22nd and July 29th the seven day rolling average of reported cases jumped between those two dates from 659 to 753 – 16.7%.

However, when judged by specimen date the seven day rolling average actually dropped from 641 to 442, a 31% decrease.

Any rise is also being skewed by a general increase in testing. The seven-day rolling average for tests carried out between July 22nd and July 29th jumped from 137,427 to 153,252 – an 11.5% increase, wiping out much of the increase.

“Why is no one checking this out at Government level?” added Prof Heneghan

“The specimen date is more reliable as the reporting data will be skewed by the delay in Pillar 2 testing reporting.”

Northern Lockdown Going Down Like Bucket of Cold Sick

Monty Python’s four Yorkshiremen would not be impressed by the Northern lockdown

A reader in one of the areas flattened by Boris’s “whack-a-mole” hammer has got in touch. Not quite as bleak as you’d think.

I’m in one of the areas recently “locked down” (BD20). We’re actually nowhere near the city of Bradford, but presumably the Government couldn’t be bothered to plot accurate maps so just lazily locked down the whole council tax area.

Some good news. Matt Hancock’s plea for household distancing has gone down like a bucket of cold sick! Everyone I know – and I mean everyone – intends to take no notice of the new rules. Crucially, unlike in March, even the previous lockdown zealots are now jumping ship. I visited my mother-in-law’s today with three generations of my family and it was totally different to March. No “sneaking around” needed. Gardens were full and people were happy to park cars outside and mingle freely as if nothing had been said. I think the penny is finally dropping. This will be forever if people go along with it this time.

The same can’t be said for local businesses, unfortunately, who have one again been thrown under a bus by these measures.

Anti-Mask Protest in Central London

Missed this yesterday, but there was an anti-mask protest in Central London on Saturday. Russia Today has the story.

Activists took to the streets of London a day after the UK cabinet expanded its guidelines for mandatory face coverings. The demonstration comes amid growing skepticism worldwide over the efficacy of such policies.

A large group of demonstrators assembled in Hyde Park on Saturday, where they listened to speeches denouncing the government’s anti-coronavirus measures. Piers Corbyn, brother of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, was among the speakers.

Carrying placards reading “Stop the new normal, save lives,”“Freedom over fear,” and “Masks are muzzles,” the protesters then marched towards Downing Street, stopping outside BBC headquarters along the way.

Question From Reader About Legality of Remote GP Appointments

The doctor will hear you now

Can anyone answer these questions from a reader about the legality of restricting NHS care?

The Government revoked and replaced the Coronavirus Act 2020 with a pared down Part 2 on July 3rd. Matt Hancock announced that healthcare appointments would remain virtual/remote for the foreseeable future. I wondered if one of your clever readers might be able to explain what is and is not a legal requirement when it comes to the provision of NHS care? After all, when challenged, the Government said it never ordered schools to close, merely recommended it. Is this is a similar situation?

I ask because my elderly dad is 85 and his memory loss has rapidly accelerated under lockdown which is really affecting quality of life. He gets very flustered with technology – even phone calls make him anxious. We’ve had a specialist second opinion and the consultant wrote to the GP asking him to carry out some tests and to support my dad. His GP will not see him in person, only remotely, and only then when you’ve run the gauntlet of the terrifying receptionists to get a phone slot. We are in a small rural market town and in our county Covid cases and deaths have remained incredibly low – you’re more likely to be trampled to death by a herd of escaped cattle.

It seems extraordinary to me that a 20 GP mega-practice which serves the town and its huge hinterland can just close its doors, and ration and suspend services in this way. I’ve heard anecdotally of patients being asked to take photos of body parts and email or text them to the surgery, as they can’t be seen in person. Surely, that cannot be good medical practice, let along consistent with GDPR, or patients’ rights to confidentiality, privacy and dignity? One would hope that the Public Sector Equality Duty still applies, and GP practices are obliged to properly equality impact assess any provision. One would assume they have to properly risk assess it too (Covid not being the only risk!). If your GP practice is over-reaching and presenting guidance as law, what recourse do patients have? I know we were told we had to protect the NHS, but my dad has paid his taxes all his life. It seems really unjust that he’s getting such threadbare care.

If anyone knows the answers to any of these questions, please email here and I’ll publish them in due course.

News From Cornwall

I may have taken news reports of locals reacting badly to tourists in Cornwall too seriously yesterday. One reader currently on holiday in Cornwall with her 14 year-old daughter and partner says it’s actually not too bad.

In St Mawes all the guests, pubs and restaurants seem pretty sensible/chilled. We just had beers and chips at a pub and it was a mask-free zone even among staff, refreshingly. Posher joints such as Hotel Tresanton and the Idle Rocks are closing their restaurants to non-residents in the evenings, however… 🤷‍♀️

New Report Lays Bear Extent of Free Speech Crisis in Universities

Policy Exchange has published a report today, written by three members of the Free Speech Union’s Advisory Council, making clear the extent of the free speech crisis in Britain’s universities. Among the findings, based on extensive polling, are:

  • Fewer than 20% of UK academics voted for right-leaning parties and about 75% voted for the Labour/Liberal Democrat/Green parties in 2017 and 2019.
  • Only 54% of academics said that they would feel comfortable sitting next to a known Leave supporter at lunch.
  • Just 37% would feel comfortable sitting next to someone who, in relation to transgender rights, advocates gender-critical feminist views.
  • A third of academics would seek to avoid hiring a known Leave supporter, and between a third and a half of those reviewing a grant bid would mark it lower if it took a right-wing perspective.
  • Among the small minority of academics who identify as “fairly right” or “right”, 32% have refrained from airing their views in teaching and research.

Having identified the problem – structural discrimination against academics with right-of-centre views – the authors propose a solution: an Academic Freedom Bill. This would provide for the following:

  • Establish the position of a Director for Academic Freedom as a member of the senior team of the Office for Students, reporting to the Board of the OfS and appointed by the Education Secretary.
  • Establish that universities and other Higher Education Providers (HEPs) have a direct duty to protect academic freedom.
  • Establish that breaches of the duty of freedom of speech or of academic freedom are a tort in breach of a statutory duty, with HEPs being liable for damages for violating these duties.
  • Expand the scope of activities which are protected beyond those specified by existing academic freedom legislation.
  • Make it explicit in law that, in fulfilling both the public sector equality duty and the harassment provisions of the Equality Act 2010, HEPs are to have particular regard to the need to ensure academic freedom and freedom of speech.
  • Extend the existing statutory duty to ensure freedom of speech to include Student Unions.

There’s much more in this excellent report. Worth reading in full.

And in case you’re worried about your own speech rights being violated, you can join the Free Speech Union here.

Postcard From Belgium

Chefs stage protest about the lockdown in Belgium by laying down their whites

The postcards are coming in thick and fast. Yesterday, I published one from Melbourne – probably the bleakest yet, although it was written before the latest horrific “Stage 4” restrictions were imposed – and today I’m publishing one from Belgium. Sounds like it could give Melbourne a run for its money in the draconian lockdown stakes. Here’s an extract:

The madness was ratcheted up even further on July 28th. Initially, a group of 100 town mayors ganged up to impose mandatory mask wearing for pedestrians within their town centres. On the street, walking alone, or in a park within their jurisdictions, masks are now mandatory. Doubtless, the remaining 200 town mayors will follow with breathless urgency to keep everyone “safe”. Masks are now mandatory on beaches along the Belgian coast. And this, in a country that banned total or partial “face coverings” in 2011, the legality of which was upheld by the European Court of Human Rights when two Muslim women claimed it breached their “human rights”. The irony is stark.

There is zero pushback to this nonsense in Belgium. The news is dominated by rising rates of infection in Antwerp and other hot spots, without any data on hospital admissions, or the condition or age profile of the “infected”. A chemist, whom I had regarded as a sensible woman for over 20 years, told me mask wearing was important to “discipline the people”. A night out with a banker friend, who could usually be relied on as a comrade in arms, made me realise Belgium is lost. He was genuinely concerned for his personal safety, believed what he was being told by the media, and happily complied with his overlords. The guy I had known for decades was no more.

Worth reading in full.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Two today: “Sons of Liberty” by Frank Turner and “Don’t Believe a Word” by Thin Lizzy.

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.

Forums Back Up and Running

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

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums that are now open. Initially, they became a spam magnet so we temporarily closed them. However, we’ve found a team of people wiling to serve as moderators so the Forums are back up and running. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

I thought I’d create a new 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 (a bit like the one above) 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 August 20th and 29th). 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 NHS exemption notice for just £2.99 from Etsy here (although when I last checked, it was no longer available).

And 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.

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. If you feel like donating, however small the sum, 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…

There’s time and then there’s Covid time

Latest News

Boris Weighs Up “Nuclear” Options

There’s a story by Tim Shipman in the Sunday Times today that I’m struggling to understand. He reports that last Wednesday at 4pm the Prime Minister convened a war-gaming exercise in which they considered various responses to different “second wave” scenarios.

For an hour they mapped out options for the next few months. Simon Case, head of the COVID-19 taskforce, led a discussion of three fictional but realistic scenarios that reflected Whitehall’s fears about what could happen next. “There were three whiteboards in different corners of the room,” one of those present said.

In their tabletop war game, Johnson and Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, first discussed an outbreak in northwestern England, then an outbreak in London and finally a general increase in infections nationally.

Under the first scenario, local authorities in the northwest saw a persistent rise in infections and the measures taken by councils failed to stem the tide. Johnson and Sunak agreed that the first lever pulled should be additional restrictions on household interactions. “There must be quick, decisive action,” Johnson said.

That evening, the fictional scenario became reality as the prime minister was presented with Office for National Statistics data showing a 66% rise in infections in a fortnight, with increases in Blackburn, Bradford and Manchester.

Where does that 66% figure come from? The ONS infection survey data released on July 31st showed an increase in the number of people testing positive over the past two weeks of just five. In the period June 29th to July 12th, 31,542 people were given a nose and throat swab, of whom 19 tested positive. In the period July 13th to July 26th, 28,325 people were swabbed, of whom 24 tested positive. So an increase of ~0.06% to ~0.085% in the unweighted sample. In the ONS table below, when weightings have been applied, this shows up as an increase in the percentage of the infected population in England of 0.05% to 0.09%. Is that the figure Tim Shipman’s referring to? If so, it’s based on an increase in the number of people testing positive of precisely five.

What about the claim that infections have increased in Blackburn, Bradford and Manchester? In section three of the ONS infection survey, headed “Regional Analysis”, there is the following caveat:

There is not enough evidence to say there are differences in the percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 in different regions of England.

Indeed, the daily average for the percentage of the population estimated to be infected in the North West remained constant at 0.05% from June 15th to July 26th. In the same period in London, by contrast, it increased from 0.10% to 0.14%. So why local lockdowns in the North West but not in London?

In Shipman’s article, he goes on to say:

Wednesday’s war game also featured a sobering session on what might happen if such an approach was needed in London, where the number of cases is rising, though not as fast as in the northwest.

Er, no. As we’ve seen, the number of cases isn’t rising at all in the North West and is estimated to be rising a bit in London. (Was one of the five new cases in London?) So what does Boris intend to do if the number of cases in London continues to rise? Here’s where Shipman’s article makes for alarming reading.

In the war game, Johnson and Sunak agreed that in the event of a London outbreak, it might be necessary to scrap the entire “green list” of countries exempt from quarantine, meaning all arrivals would have to self-isolate for 14 days. “We’d need quick guillotine decisions,” one of those present said.

In March, the Prime Minister considered, and rejected, plans to lock down the capital harder than the rest of the country. But in Wednesday’s war game he agreed that if infections rose significantly, overnight stays in London would be banned, Londoners could be subject to stay-at-home orders, and close-contact services such as hairdressers would close. “The challenge in London is how quickly people move around on the trains and Tube,” a source said. “It would potentially spread much quicker than in other areas so you’d have to be quicker on the regional hammer in London.”

Most controversially, the ministers concluded that people would be advised not to travel in and out of the capital, raising the prospect of restrictions on those inside the M25. “That would be the border point,” an insider said.

God help the nine million people who live in London. A mad, hammer-wielding maniac has taken up residence in Downing Street and will “whack” the capital if a handful of more people start testing positive for the virus, regardless of the damage he’ll do to public health and the economy.

In the third scenario, which Whitehall officials called the “frog boiling” scenario, the prevalence of the virus increases gradually but inexorably across the entire country, with local lockdowns failing to snuff out fires. The response here, apparently, would be to extend the “shielding” policy to encompass everyone over 65!

Johnson sanctioned work to go ahead on plans for “enhanced shielding”, which would see the number of people judged clinically vulnerable and urged to stay at home increased from the current total of 2.2 million to “a much wider group”.

Yesterday, more than two million vulnerable people were released from shielding in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

This “segmentation approach” would see many more people receive a tailored letter in September or October, “before it gets cold”, spelling out their risk factors. Health issues and age would be taken into account – an approach that is likely to mean that a large number of people aged between 50 and 70 would be urged to stay out of harm’s way. Personalised advice is possible because scientists have better evidence about which factors most effect whether people survive COVID-19.

“At the moment, shielding is binary, you’re either on this list or off it,” said one of those familiar with the thinking. “But we know there isn’t a simple cut-off at age 70. People would get a personalised risk assessment. The risk rises after 50, quite gently to start with, and then accelerates after age 70.”

It is likely that this would mean people being put in tiered risk levels but would be controversial because it could be depicted as quarantine by age. Most of those affected, if the shielding plans are adopted, are likely to be over 65.

Can’t the over-65s just carry crucifixes and cloves of garlic to ward off the vampiric virus? I’m sure that would result in a far lower loss of life than imprisoning them in their homes.

Postcard From Melbourne

And if you want a glimpse of the future, a reader has written a “Postcard From Melbourne“, where a draconian second lockdown has been imposed by the Premier of Victoria Daniel Andrews after a minor uptick in infections. It’s not pretty.

Lockdown 2.0 was quickly imposed, a few postcode areas first then all of metropolitan Melbourne. A concern to anyone who values their liberty had to be the total lockdown of a number of housing commission apartment blocks with zero notice. By the time the Dear Leader had finished his announcement on TV that no one would be allowed to leave these tower blocks there were already hundreds of police surrounding them forcibly stopping anyone from leaving. Considering in ‘normal’ times they can’t rustle up two cops to attend burglaries, night-time home invasions or muggings etc. they were able to find 500 of them to police this hard lockdown with no trouble at all.

Of course the lockdown has had little effect so next was mandatory face nappies for all when you’re outside your house with $200 fines gleefully being handed out by the Vicstapo. Before that has even had any chance to have an effect Prof Sutton and Comrade Andrews are informing us that ‘Stage 4’ Lockdown will have to be implemented or the world will end. Still no concrete details but from leaks in the news sites it will be like NZ, everything barring supermarkets and essential services closed, no travel more than 5km from home, one occupant from a house allowed to go shopping and a huge increase in police patrols using numberplate recognition cameras to catch and fine anyone not complying with this madness.

I’ve given up trying to have an adult discussion with anyone here. I know of only two people who are lockdown sceptics like me. Every single other person you speak to is a complete COVID Lockdown fanatic who will not contemplate any other view. It’s quite unsettling. Aussies love to make out they are this rough, tough, she’ll be right, bunch of rebels when in reality they are a nation of supine, compliant rule followers who love nothing more than ‘dobbing in’ someone else for not following the most petty of rules and regulations. They are such a nation of bedwetters someone has actually started manufacturing home wares with portraits of the Victorian Chief Health Officer, Health Minister and State Premier – bizarre and creepy!!

Worth reading in full.

No “Second Wave” in Western Europe, Says Theoretical Physicist

Today I’m publishing a third update in the “Canaries in the Mine” series produced by Dr Rudolph Kalveks. Dr Kalveks, who has a PhD in theoretical physics, has used a standard tool in epidemiology – the Susceptible-Infected-Recovered/Resolved or (“SIR”) model – to analyse the lifecycle of the virus in different regions. In his first article in the series, he concluded that in Europe and America the pandemic was approaching the end of its life and a “second wave” was unlikely. He looked at the data again in the second article in the series and saw nothing to change his mind, and did the same in the third, concluding that while the fatalities might not have reached a ceiling in some US states they had in Western Europe. That’s also what the data indicate in his fourth analysis, published today.

The curves show that when the penetration of coronavirus in a country reaches a ceiling, typically represented by a fatality rate below 0.1% of its population, its spread slows to a standstill, with few further fatalities arising. This certainly appears to have been the case in mainland Western Europe, where the average daily death rates from the coronavirus have now declined to single figures (in terms of individuals) in every country, notwithstanding the relaxation of many of the lockdown restrictions imposed early during the pandemic. The “Canaries” are telling us empirically that Western Europe has reached or is close to herd immunity. Prof. Gupta at Oxford and other epidemiologists explain this in terms of the immune mechanisms at work in addition to antibodies, such as T-cells.

Worth reading in full. You can see all four analyses on the right-hand side as sub-pages of “How Reliable is Imperial College’s Modelling?”

Thousands of Protestors Join Anti-Lockdown March in Berlin

Great to see so many people turn out for an anti-lockdown protest in Berlin yesterday. A crowd of people, many not wearing masks, marched from the Brandenburg Gate on Saturday ahead of a rally in Tiergarten park. The demonstration was called “The end of the pandemic: freedom day”. Euronews has more.

Protesters held up placards promoting conspiracy theories such as “Corona, false alarm”, and there were chants of “we’re here and we’re loud, because we are being robbed of our freedom”.

Placards also read “we are being forced to wear a muzzle” and “natural defence instead of vaccination”.

According to the BBC, which also reported on the march, over 15,000 people turned out (although some local observers put it at 20,000).

The mood is peaceful but hardly anyone is wearing a face-covering or observing the required social distancing, our correspondent says.

“Our demand is to go back to democracy. Away with these laws that have been imposed on us, away with the masks that make us slaves,” said one woman.

Restrictions in Germany include the wearing of face-coverings in shops and on public transport, social distancing rules and hygiene requirements apply throughout the country. Mandatory testing has been introduced for holidaymakers returning from high-risk areas.

Germany has had more than 210,000 cases of coronavirus and more than 9,000 related deaths since the pandemic began.

What the BBC neglects to mention is that 9,000 deaths is less than half of the German death toll for seasonal flu in 2017-18.

The mainstream German papers have reacted to the demo in a typically hostile way. The German-speaking reader of Lockdown Sceptics who has scanned the German papers for us before has had a look.

German papers are highly critical of the demonstrators. The Frankfurter Allgemeine describes the people attending as “corona deniers” who, with their refusal to wear masks and adhere to social distancing rules (hardly surprising given they were protesting against lockdown regulations) are described – at best – as misfits endangering the health of others. At worst they are linked to neo-Nazi groups whose support for the demo is mentioned in several reports and helps to underscore the sense that people demonstrating to retain basic freedoms are extremists. Tarring lockdown scepticism with right-wing extremism has always been a common and obviously emotive thread in German reporting.

Bild is similarly relentlessly critical, painting the protesters as “corona deniers”, “conspiracy theorists” and “right-wing extremists”. Reading these reports you’d conclude that no moderate sceptics bothered turning up. The report is immediately followed by a headline shrieking that there are 15 new cases in Hamburg. Hamburg has a population of 1.9 million.

The Sueddeutsche reports on subsequent arrests of protesters, and features a quote from the Justice minister, Christine Lambrecht. “The freedom to demonstrate is an important right, underpinning democracy,” she begins hopefully. But she then shows scant regard for this right: “However, demonstrators should adhere to regulations that exist to protect public health, and I have no sympathy for anyone who so self-importantly ignores them.”

Cornwall Residents “Terrified” of Tourists

There was a depressing story in the Independent yesterday about how local residents in Cornwall are reacting with horror to the influx of “staycation” tourists.

Residents in Cornwall have expressed dismay at overcrowding due to an influx of domestic tourists on so-called staycation in the UK.

One local in Wadebridge said on Facebook that some tourists were not socially distancing because they “feel safe down here”.

“My shielding is paused from today but I’m too scared to go out,” she said. “Tried walking into town a couple of times but no social distancing at all. I was constantly doubling back, leaping out of the way and panicking just to keep my distance from the hoards. It’s horrifying.”

Another, in St Ives, said she was “too scared” to go food shopping because of the crowds and had told her children not to visit the main shopping street or the harbour seafront.

This was “the general consensus among friends,” holiday lettings manager Claire Harris told the BBC.

I was thinking of holidaying in Cornwall this year, having been many times before and loved it. But if the locals really are leaping out of the way at the sight of any tourists, I’m glad I didn’t.

The Mail has the same story. Apparently, some locals have taken to calling Cornwall “Benidorm on steroids”, while local “Marshalls” are patrolling the streets, making sure social distancing is being observed.

A Catholic Writes

A reader who recently converted to Catholicism has got in touch to tell me about his experience of attending Mass again for the first time in months. It wasn’t pleasant.

I am writing to you to share my experience of returning to Mass recently. As I had only become a Catholic last November you can imagine how much I was looking forward to returning to Mass a few weeks ago. However, my joy quickly turned to sadness. At the door of the church I was greeted by a “steward” who told me I had to put on a mask and then escorted me to my seat. Talking to other people was not allowed before or after the mass. Worst of all, the stewards were all donning masks, visors, surgical gowns and gloves. It made the experience more like an appointment at the dentist than worship! Oh, and I nearly forgot to say that no singing was allowed and when the priest came to distribute the host he silently dropped it into my hands. The service was shortened to 30 minutes. Evidently a full hour Mass might be deadly even though I could go and sit with a friend in the pub for hours safely! I left the service deflated and pondering whether to go again until these ridiculous restrictions are lifted. Perhaps I should start a catholic resistance movement called Massked Resistance.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Just one today: “You Don’t Need a Mask” by Rick Estrin and the Nightcats

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

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

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

Forums Back Up and Running

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

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums that are now open. Initially, they became a spam magnet so we temporarily closed them. However, we’ve found a team of people wiling to serve as moderators so the Forums are back up and running. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

I thought I’d create a new 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 (although it’s showing a delivery date of Sept 7th to 16th). 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 NHS exemption notice for just £2.99 from Etsy here (see above).

And 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.

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. If you feel like donating, however small the sum, 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…

Latest News

Northern Lockdown Triggered by 14 Extra Cases. Or is it Five?

Matt Hancock receives the news from Chis Whitty: “14 extra cases you say? Right, let’s lock up four-and-a-half million people.”

Was the “surge” in cases in the North West that prompted the Government to impose a local lockdown on more than four million people due to 14 additional people testing positive? It certainly looks that way.

The ONS infection survey data showing that the number of infected people had risen from 0.05% of the population to 0.07% (still below the level of an epidemic), was based on just 59 people testing positive out of 116,026 swab tests over a six-week period. In the previous period, 45 people tested positive out of 114,674, which means the tipping point for a northern lockdown may have rested on only 14 extra positive tests. That’s well within the confidence interval so it’s perfectly possible that there’s been no increase at all and next week the numbers will fall.

If you compare the most recent week’s ONS data it shows 24 people testing positive out of 28,325, compared to 19 out of 31,542 the previous week. So a total increase of five.

Is this “the data” Matt Hancock referred to in his Twitter thread on Friday night when he announced the new restrictions?

No wonder some Tory MPs in “red wall” seats were furious when they heard the news. The Telegraph has more.

“They were furious. They were calling it an outrage. One of them was all over the place, screaming his head off,” said a Labour MP who witnessed the row unfold. “These are Tories who think Boris Johnson can do no wrong, and you could see the scales falling from their eyes.”

Sir Graham Brady, the Chairman of the Conservative backbench 1922 Committee and the MP for Altrincham and Sale West, said: “These new restrictions have been introduced over a large area, even though there are massive variations in infection rates. It is unfortunate that these restrictions were introduced so quickly and without consultation.”

Another senior Tory, with an affected northern seat, said: “I just think there remains a default position of extreme caution which jars with the reality that we may have to live with Covid for a very long time and we have to get on with life.”

To Open Schools We’ll Have to Close Pubs – Government Scientist

Peter Brookes’s cartoon in today’s Times

What fresh hell is this? In an interview on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, Professor Graham Medley, a member of SAGE, said England would have to consider closing pubs in order to reopen schools next month. The Telegraph has more.

When asked about the Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty’s prediction that the country was “near the limits” of opening up society and “difficult trade-offs” will have to be made, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine academic told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think that’s quite possible.

“I think we’re in a situation whereby most people think that opening schools is a priority for the health and wellbeing of children and that when we do that we are going to reconnect lots of households.

“And so actually, closing some of the other networks, some of the other activities may well be required to enable us to open schools.

“It might come down to a question of which do you trade off against each other and then that’s a matter of prioritising, do we think pubs are more important than schools?”

But in the same Radio 4 interview, Professor Medley also said that the rise in infections in the past few weeks had mainly been among younger people.

“The age distribution of infections has changed, it has moved down into younger age groups and so it is likely we won’t see that increase in hospital admissions related to infection in the same way we did in March.”

In other words, the rise in infections – if indeed it’s happing at all – is nothing to worry about since young people are no more likely to die of COVID-19 than they are of seasonal flu. So, er, why do we have to close pubs if we want to re-open schools?

A reader has passed on a comment from a relative that may throw some light on why members of SAGE are prone to giving these alarmist, grand-standing interviews.

A close relative, a retired consultant surgeon, says that he knew several government health advisers during his career and that, with one exception, they were all “barking mad”. He also reckoned, from his experience, that members of government advisory committees like SAGE like to ramp up the bad news to maintain their own importance and because they thrived on publicity.

Meanwhile, Them For Us, the lobby group campaigning for schools to re-open, has helped organise a letter in the Telegraph signed by a coalition of academics and business leaders saying that schools should be classified alongside nuclear power plants to prevent them from being closed in a local lockdown. The Telegraph has more.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, the group argued that deeming schools as “critical national infrastructure” would help prevent them from being “unnecessarily” shut down where there is a regional rise in coronavirus cases.

“Widespread school lockdowns are an inappropriate response to local outbreaks and for the sake of our children and the broader economy, we ask that you now commit to keep schools open,” the letter said.

“Where a significant outbreak takes place within a school the only school to be the subject of a closure should be the one affected by the outbreak.”

No “Second Wave” in Sweden

Cases are continuing to fall in Sweden and Andres Tegnell, the country’s top epidemiologist, says Sweden has no intention of making face masks mandatory. The Sun has more.

Speaking to reporters in Stockholm on Tuesday, Tegnell said: “The curves go down, and the curves over the seriously ill begin to be very close to zero.

“As a whole, it is very positive.”

He also addressed the question of face masks, which the World Health Organisation continues to recommend people use when social distancing isn’t practicable.

“With numbers diminishing very quickly in Sweden, we see no point in wearing a face mask in Sweden, not even on public transport,” he said.

Meanwhile, Raj Bhopal, emeritus Professor of Public Health at Edinburgh University, says it’s time to reconsider herd immunity as the only long-term solution to COVID-19. The Telegraph has more.

In a new article published in the journal Public Health in Practice, he argues that the COVID-19 pandemic has put ministers in a “zugwang” which is a position in chess where every move is disadvantageous and where every plan must be examined “however unpalatable” it might be.

Herd immunity is when enough people become resistant to a disease – through vaccination or previous exposure – that it can no longer significantly spread among the rest of the population.

With no vaccine available for COVID-19, herd immunity relies on enough people in the population becoming infected to lessen the impact of the disease.

Prof Bhopal argues that even if a vaccine is found it may not work well for older people and those with underlying health conditions.

The side-effects from a vaccine might also be worse for children and young people’s health than catching coronavirus in the first place.

“Herd immunity provokes hostility and controversy as it is usually interpreted as allowing the pandemic to unfold without interventions. The concept needs revisiting,” his paper says.

“If safe and effective vaccines and life-saving preventative and therapeutic medications are not found, lengthy lockdowns prove impossible, and the pandemic does not disappear spontaneously, population immunity is the only, long-term solution.”

Financial Analyst Concludes Lockdown Pointless

Greed is good. The lockdown? Not so much.

My financial journalist friend who has made many anonymous contributions to Lockdown Sceptics has flagged up the latest analysis by James Ferguson of MacroStrategy Partnership. Unfortunately, it’s not online, but here is the executive summary:

What have we done?

The UK has effectively monetised its entire Covid-19 fiscal response budget, with HMG Treasury gilt issuance almost exactly equalling the Bank of England’s (BoE) gilt purchases, with the June decision to add a further £100bn of QE to the £210bn already decided on in March signalling to the government that their relief budget to date will total 14% of GDP. The OECD expects the impact on 2020 UK GDP to be -11% (-14% if there’s a second wave) and government debt has soared to 115% of GDP.

One of the reasons for such an aggressive stance was the £14bn/month cost of the furlough (up to 80% of salary for 9.5m workers) but another was the need to protect the banks from excessive defaults. However, UK banks are in far better shape than they were on the eve of the GFC. They have more capital, more of it is loss-absorbing and with far fewer assets to buffer against.

Nevertheless, the negative consequences of the ill- informed decision to lock down have been huge and some might even prove permanent. What a shame therefore, that now the first wave has passed, we can see that the loss of life was no worse than the 2017-18 flu season and that the course of the disease appears no better than in Sweden, which has carried on near normal (the OECD expects 2020 GDP -6.7%).

Conclusion: the UK lockdown, with all its attendant miseries, appears to have been completely unnecessary.

Hospital Deaths in England Fall to Almost Zero

To hear Matt Hancock and Boris Johnson talk, you’d think the NHS is on the point of being completely overwhelmed, so great is the “surge” in cases in the North West. In fact, on four of the past seven days, NHS England has reported zero deaths occurring in English hospitals in the previous 24 hour period. The days were:

  • July 25th for the period 4pm July 23rd to 4pm July 24th
  • July 27th for the period 4pm July 25th to 4pm July 26th
  • July 28th for the period 4pm July 26th to 4pm July 27th
  • July 30th for the period 4pm July 28th to 4pm July 29th

Of course, NHS England revised these figures as more time elapsed, shoehorning in deaths that had occurred weeks earlier and adding them to the daily totals. But the number of deaths reported by English hospitals in the previous 24 hour period is still a valid metric. During the previous week, there were three days in which NHS England reported zero deaths in the last 24 hours, so it’s falling.

Birds Bakery Disgraces Itself Again

A missing apostrophe is the least of Birds Bakery’s sins

Birds Bakery is in the news again – and not in a good way. Two days ago I flagged up the story of a worker at the branch in Arnold who had refused to serve a 94 year-old woman because she only had cash. Now, the manager of the branch in Radcliffe-on-Trent has been sacked because she accepted cash payments. The BBC has the story.

A bakery manager who paid for customers’ purchases with her own card so they could use cash has been sacked.

Megan Metcalfe, 60, said she did it to help elderly shoppers at Birds Bakery in Radcliffe-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, where she has worked for four decades.

She said she took about 45 payments totalling £183, but accepting cash was against the bakery’s coronavirus policies.

Her former employer said this was why, “with regret”, they had to fire her.

It’s a tragedy when any business goes bankrupt as a result of the lockdown. But Birds Bakery seems so hellbent on alienating its customers that perhaps it would be cruel not to grant the company its death wish.

Round-Up

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

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

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

Forums Back Up and Running

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

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums that are now open. Initially, they became a spam magnet so we temporarily closed them. However, we’ve found a team of people wiling to serve as moderators so the Forums are back up and running. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

I thought I’d create a new 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 (although it’s showing a delivery date of Sept 4th to 14th). 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 NHS exemption notice for just £2.99 from Etsy here (see above).

And 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.

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. If you feel like donating, however small the sum, 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…

I interviewed Rob Henderson for the Quillette podcast on Friday. Rob is a graduate of Yale and a PhD student at Cambridge who’s written some great pieces for Quillette, including “Thorstein Veblen’s Theory of the Leisure Class—A Status Update“. In the interview, we discuss why it is that upper middle class white professionals have embraced the woke agenda with such enthusiasm.

Latest News

The Government’s Incoherent New Measures in the North

Matt Hancock and his SpAds try to get through to Dominic Cummings before the Health Secretary appears on BBC Breakfast

I didn’t think the Government’s management of the pandemic could get any worse, but I was wrong. The measures announced last night, imposing new restrictions in Greater Manchester, East Lancashire and parts of West Yorkshire, are a new low.

They were announced by Matt Hancock in a Twitter thread at 9.16pm – no, I’m not making that up. He really did announce restrictions affecting millions of people on Twitter less than three hours before they were due to come into force. Or should that be farce? It’s as though Matt Hancock’s script is being written by Armando Iannucci, creator of The Thick of It. Oh, and the Government then published the new guidance two hours later – less than an hour before it came into effect – and then published further guidance this morning.

Let me see if I can get this straight. In Greater Manchester, Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Hyndburn, Pendle, Rossendale, Bradford, Calderdale and Kirklees, people from one household won’t be allowed to meet people from other households in their homes or gardens. That seems relatively clear, but the Government then added the caveat that you are allowed to mix with a person or persons in another household if the two households have formed a “support bubble”. A “support bubble” “must include a single adult household, i.e. people who live alone or single parents with dependent children aged under 18”.

Clear?

When asked about this rather complicated rule on breakfast television this morning, Hancock only added to the confusion.

“The law that we’re bringing in is that two households cannot meet in the area defined, but obviously any two households that are meeting should follow the social distancing guidelines,” he said.

Not only did that fail to make the advice any clearer, but by using the words “in the area defined” he muddied the waters even further. In its published guidance, the Government specified that people in the these areas should not “visit someone else’s home or garden even if they live outside of the affected areas”. So has the Government changed its mind about that? Or does Hancock not understand his own guidance?

Perhaps Hancock’s confusion isn’t surprising since the guidance is borderline incomprehensible.

For instance, someone from outside an “affected area” is not allowed to visit someone inside an “affected area” unless they’re attending a wedding or a funeral, in which case they can provided there are no more than 30 people in attendance. Oh, and you’re allowed to travel into an “affected area” if you’re “holidaying” there.

Clear?

There’s more of this gobbledegook. People in the “affected areas” will be allowed to visit pubs, restaurants, cafes, shops, places of worship, community centres, leisure and entertainment venues and visitor attractions, but only if they remain with members of their households while in those venues and don’t “socialise” with anyone else – unless they’re in their “support bubble”, of course.

In Leicester, where a local lockdown has been in place for the past month, pubs, cafes and restaurants will re-open on Monday, but the no-socialising restriction will apply, as will the other new rules.

You are allowed to meet people in the open air, provided it’s not in a private garden:

In line with the national guidance, you can continue to meet in public outdoor spaces in groups of no more than six people, unless the group includes only people from two households.

What if one of the two households includes someone from another household in their “support bubble”? And why public parks but not private gardens? Who knows.

The new law mandating these restrictions is going to be called “The Dog’s Breakfast Act”. Or is it the “Whack-A-Mole Act”?

In his Twitter thread, Hancock said this decision was “based on the data” and referred to “an increasing rate of transmission in parts of Northern England”.

The main evidence that the number of cases is increasing comes from the ONS, which claims it has discovered a slight increase in the number of people testing positive based on a nose and throat swab in recent weeks. Here’s what the BBC has to say about those data:

The figures are based on its infection survey, which takes swabs from people selected at random in homes in England.

The ONS estimates that about 1 in 1,500 people in homes in England are infected (roughly 36,000 people in total) with 4,200 new infections each day.

Both figures are up on last week, when it was estimated there were 2,800 new infections each day and that one in 2,000 people (28,000 total) were infected in homes in England.

Unfortunately, the ONS hasn’t disclosed whether it re-tested anyone to ensure the first test result wasn’t a false positive.

Even though these data show a slight uptick in the number of cases in the past few weeks – from 0.05% of the population to a whopping 0.07% – the overall number of cases is far lower than it was at the end of April (0.34%):

Can these data be used to justify the new measures? No. The ONS has produced a breakdown of the percentage of infected people per region, but it shows that the North West has fewer infected people than all but one other area (the South West) and lower than Yorkshire and the Humber, the East Midlands, the East of England, the South East and London, which is way out in front. If I lived in Manchester, I would ask why I’m having to endure these additional restrictions when a smaller percentage of my city is infected than London.

The BBC also published some data from PHE showing the number of new cases per 100,000 has increased in some parts of Greater Manchester, although it has fallen in Bolton and Rochdale:

Can this be used to justify the local lockdowns? Not really. In Germany, the trigger for a local lockdown is the number of new cases climbing to above 50/100,000. The only part of Greater Manchester that’s happened in is Oldham. Why are the people of Manchester having to suffer all these new restrictions when the infection rate is only 25/100,000?

As usual, there’s no rhyme or reason to the Government’s handling of the crisis. They’re just making it up as they go along. No wonder more than half of the British public don’t understand the lockdown rules.

Stop Press: A reader has emailed to point out that anyone from one of the affected areas who’s currently visiting someone in another area is now breaking the law and could be fined £100.

My mother-in-law is staying with us. She lives in Manchester. Now, according to the hapless Hand Cock, she’s breaking the law unless we make ourselves her support bubble. Whatever that means.

Boris “Squeezes the Brake Pedal” (Mistook it For Woman’s Thigh)

“Cripes! Brake pedal you say? I thought it was the upper thigh of a luscious young virgin.”

There was more bad news this morning. Boris held a press conference with Chris Whitty in which he announced that he was going to “squeeze the brake pedal” on the planned easing of lockdown restrictions on August 1st. Here’s the BBC’s summary:

On July 17th, the Prime Minister set out plans to further ease lockdown rules from 1 August to:

* Reopen most remaining leisure settings, including bowling, skating rinks and casinos
* Allow live indoor theatre and concert performances to resume with socially distanced audiences
* Reopen all close contact services including any treatments on the face, such as eyebrow threading or make-up application
* Allow wedding receptions for as many as 30 people

These changes have now been postponed for at least a fortnight, with the Prime Minister saying at a Downing Street press conference that “we should now squeeze that brake pedal to keep the virus under control”.

The changes to the guidance for employers, allowing them to make decisions about how and where their staff can work safely from tomorrow, will remain in place.

In addition, fans will no longer be permitted to attend the sporting pilot events allowing limited numbers of spectators at Goodwood, the Crucible and the Oval in coming days.

Again, no evidence was presented to show that the virus isn’t under control. On the contrary, PHE published data showing that the number of people turning up at hospital Emergency Departments with Covid-like symptoms has declined since its peak in early April:

It also published data showing the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 being admitted to hospital and ICUs has declined since early April and is continuing to fall:

SAGE Member Says Project Fear on Steroids Must be “Ramped Back Up”

A reader sent me this extraordinary comment made by Professor Robert West from University College London, a member of the behavioural science group that feeds into SAGE, on the Today programme. You really couldn’t make it up.

Round-Up

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

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

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

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

Forums Back Up and Running

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

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums that are now open. Initially, they became a spam magnet so we temporarily closed them. However, we’ve found a team of people wiling to serve as moderators so the Forums are back up and running. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

I thought I’d create a new 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 (although it’s showing a delivery date of Sept 4th to 14th). 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 NHS exemption notice for just £2.99 from Etsy here (see above).

And 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.

A reader has been in touch to tell me about his wizard strategy for avoiding wearing a mask on his Ryanair flight to Crete:

Masks are to be worn on board Ryanair flights, of course, but not if you are eating or drinking. €27.50 seemed a bit steep for a toasted ham and cheese croissant, two half litres of still water and a double Hendriks and Britvic, but we had a tail wind down to Crete and they lasted the three hour flight.

Worth every pfennig.

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. If you feel like donating, however small the sum, 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…

Latest News

Second Wave? Virus Has All But Disappeared

Your daily reminder that the virus has dwindled away to almost nothing. This graph shows daily triage calls for 19-69 year-olds. Note no uptick during the Hyde Park BLM protests or during the “major incident” on Bournemouth Beach. (Hat tip Alistair Haimes.)

Unfortunately, nobody’s told the National Trust. Had an amusing email from a reader just back from the Lake District.

My girlfriend and I took a trip up to Ambleside last week, arriving the day before Maskgeddon. We were denied an early check-in as the room-cleaning regime at our B&B involved multiple rounds of antibacterial fumigation!

The National Trust seems to have completely lost the plot! The day of our first outing, we visited the Aira Force waterfall and parked in one of their car parks near the top of the trail down to the waterfall. As we walked towards the trail, a bedwetter loudly informed me that there was a one-way system on the trails, before we’d even reached the sign. When we got back to the car, I noticed that the Trust has helpfully supplied a hand-sanitiser dispenser embedded in a tree stump near the pay & display machine! Goodness knows how many thousands of lives they’ve already saved with such thoughtful measures!

For the rest of the trip I refused to muzzle up, and I wasn’t challenged at all – in fact most shop staff seemed pleased to be seeing a human face rather than a soggy rag. When we were up on to the fells, it was (mercifully) easy to forget all the absurdity going on down in the valleys…

Not surprising that the National Trust is anticipating having to make 1,200 members of staff redundant, according to the BBC.

Tall Lives Matter

If I stand next to Jacob Rees-Mogg at a party, I feel like the grinning street urchin in that famous photograph of the two Etonian schoolboys towering over the local working class lads

I’ve written a squib for today’s Telegraph about the research purporting to show that people over 6ft are twice as vulnerable to catching Covid. No, it’s not the usual demolition job. As a short(ish) man, I actually welcome the news and hope it’s true.

This comes as something of a relief because I’ve always been a bit chippy about my height. For years, whenever anyone asked me how tall I was, I would say, “Five foot eight and a half,” and then stare at them defensively, daring them to contradict me. But I realised eventually that adding “and a half” wasn’t doing me any favours. It was just advertising the fact that I had an inferiority complex. So now I say, “Five foot nine” and try not to look away too quickly.

Believe it or not, five foot nine is average height for a fully-grown British male and being below that, even if it’s only half an inch, is still a source of resentment. Without quite being aware of it, most people treat height as a proxy for social status, a form of “unconscious bias” that’s unlikely to be addressed by any diversity training programme.

People don’t exactly stop me as I’m on my way back from the lavatory in restaurants and ask me to bring them the bill, but I can still detect a hint of patrician disdain whenever I’m introduced to a tall, upper class man. If I stand next to Jacob Rees-Mogg at a party, for example, I feel like one of the grinning street urchin in that famous photograph of the two Etonian schoolboys towering over the local working class lads.

Worth reading in full, obviously.

My Mask Hell

Tom Hardy as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises

I’m publishing a new essay today by regular Lockdown Sceptics contributor Guy de la Bédoyère. It’s about his first trip to the shops since the mandatory face coverings policy was introduced.

Walking round a supermarket is actually quite tiring. It’s not like wandering into a newsagent. You have to carry a heavy basket or push a laden trolley. This means that breathing is quite important. As my expedition progressed, I began to feel light-headed. This perplexed me until I realized I was experiencing the first signs of hypoxia. Not only was I not breathing enough, I was also breathing back in my carbon-dioxide laden exhalations. It was like being in Apollo 13 before they managed to knock up some emergency DIY carbon-dioxide filters.

No wonder I was overcome with a constant desire to tear the mask off and gulp air in. With a mild sense of panic beginning to take me over I hurried to the self-service till where I wouldn’t have to use up any additional air trying to speak, constantly having to resist the reflex to remove the mask, hurried through and exited the shop. What a total relief it was to get outside.

Worth reading in full.

Lockdown Killing 2,700 People A week – New Study

According to a study by economists and academics from Sheffield and Loughborough universities, the lockdown has already killed 21,000 people. The Telegraph has the story.

The analysis examines Office for National Statistics (ONS) data in the eight weeks that followed the national lockdown.

Researchers said the findings show that “lockdown has killed 21,000 people” because the policy has had “significant unintended consequences” such as lack of access to critical healthcare and a collapse in A&E attendances.

The study examines deaths data in recent months, and tracks it against long-term trends, taking account of other variables such as demographic and economic factors.

It suggests that the lockdown – and the subsequent reduction in access to healthcare – increased total mortality by roughly 2,700 deaths a week.

It follows warnings that the number of people attending Accident and Emergency departments fell by 50% at some points during the pandemic, while urgent referrals for suspected cancer dropped by 70%.

21,000 people seems like an underestimate to me. This new study complements Carl Heneghan and Daniel Howden’s article yesterday for the Oxford Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine blog flagging up the high number of excess deaths in homes, which they speculated could be caused by “individuals deterred from visiting hospitals”.

Bakery Refuses to Sell Bread to Pensioner, 94, Because She Only Has Cash

Bird’s the Bed-Wetters in Arnold

The woman behind the counter at Bird’s Bakery in Arnold refused to serve a pensioner because she only had cash. Nottinghamshire Live has the story.

A 94-year-old woman who lived through the Second World War was was told she couldn’t buy bread from Birds bakery because she didn’t have a bank card.

Former hosiery worker Edna Dalchin, of Basford, has never owned a bank card and prefers to pay “the old fashioned way” with cash.

She was left shocked and embarrassed when staff at Birds Bakery in Bulwell told her to put essential items back because they could not take her money.

What utter madness. I’m tempted to send the owner of Bird’s Bakery this recent comment in the Lancet in which the Professor of Microbiology, Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics at the New Jersey Medical School review the evidence about whether the virus can live on fomites and concludes “the chance of transmission through inanimate surfaces is very small”.

Postcard From Derry

A reader in Northern Ireland has been in touch with some cheery news: the people of Northern Ireland haven’t succumbed to Coronaphobia. Face masks still aren’t mandatory over there. And you don’t even need a passport, just some ID.

The atmosphere in Derry is very close to normal now. People are chatting and friendly, and even though cafes, etc. have fewer seats, the ones that are open are quite busy.

Last week there was a brief flurry of mask wearing, but it seems to have died down. About a third of people wear them in Marks and Spencer Food (that middle class virtue signalling is everywhere!) and a much lower percentage elsewhere. Staff in (NI) aren’t wearing masks, but south of the Border (e.g. in a really good cafe called Tank and Skinny’s), they do have to. The South seems to be going backwards very badly, having initially been getting better.

Talking to people here, there is a great deal of scepticism about the disease and the response. I get the impression from Lockdown Sceptics and my friends in England that the atmosphere is a lot more Stasi-like over there, so we are all very glad to be here!

There are a few other local peculiarities which help.

The history of the Troubles mean that the police are very wary of giving any excuse for a riot, so they were pretty light touch even during the worst of the lockdown. The Troubles also mean people are much less trusting of the media and the Government anyway, especially on the Nationalist side of the fence.

There is also a sense in Ireland, North and South, that people are entitled to their view (apart from that obnoxious and tiny minority which has caused most of the trouble over the years), which doesn’t come over in the media at all, and does make daily life a lot less Orwellian than, say, undergraduate studies at Oxford…

On the downside, the public sector is basically completely inert here just like everywhere else.

As well as that, the economic impact of the lockdown is increasingly visible. It is clear many of the shops, cafes and restaurants won’t be re-opening, possibly ever, and from my own perspective trying to get a new tax consultancy business off the ground, not being able to meet people face to face has not been good news.

It’s hardly the biggest problem caused by the lockdown, but I suspect in aggregate it will hit new businesses disproportionately and so hamper the recovery. Certainly, from my own experience things were going very well up to lockdown, and then went into the deep freeze and have been slow to come back out again. Many people thought in June we would be back to normal by September, but we all now think it’s going to be the New Year before the nonsense stops.

Anyway, overall things are about as good as they can be here, and if people wanted to visit somewhere in the UK with nice scenery, nice people and the same very little to do as everywhere else, they could do a lot worse!

Round-Up

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

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

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

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

Forums Back Up and Running

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

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums that are now open. Initially, they became a spam magnet so we temporarily closed them. However, we’ve found a team of people wiling to serve as moderators so the Forums are back up and running. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

This NHS “Mask Exempt” card is only £2.99 from Etsy

I thought I’d create a new 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 (although it’s showing a delivery date of Sept 2nd to 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 NHS exemption notice for just £2.99 from Etsy here (see above).

And 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.

A couple of readers have emailed to say just how effective these devices are.

I am currently in Corfu after flying this morning from Birmingham International Airport. I drove down from Hull in the early hours, 50 / 50 as to what my strategy was going to be. Shops are one thing, airports and aeroplanes another. I had my lanyard on me from Amazon, which you had kindly sent a link to previously on Sceptics.

I thought, what the hell, parked my car at the meet and greet, should have been wearing a muzzle, but Unchallenged as I handed my keys over. Walked into the airport, guy at the entrance motioned to me about a mask, showed him the lanyard, waved me through. Checked my case in after having to get the required Greek travel number to the staff member, no problem. Shopped in the airport, asked in Smiths but again showed the lanyard, fine. Coffee in Starbucks then through to the boarding gate. Asked again, showed the Lanyard, onto the plane.

I was literally the only person on the plane without one. Strangely, I felt proud, rather than guilty, but naughty nevertheless. End of flight, into Corfu, and the long queue to go through customs. Kept reaching for the muzzle in my back pocket as it was feeling a little uncomfortable, I was the only one! I got a couple of comments in the queue but only to ask where I got the lanyard from, half jokingly. Got through, no problem, onto the transfer bus to the Hotel, never needing to put a muzzle on. I may act slightly differently on the way back but I’ll make that call at home time.

Anyway, thought you might to hear that the Lanyards do work. To my defence I do genuinely have mild asthma at times so I feel justified, although I was probably fitter than 50% of people on the flight.

And here’s the other one.

My Amazon mask exemption card/lanyard arrived conveniently on July 24th – £4.95 plus postage – and has proved 100% effective.

Nobody has questioned it nor have I had any ‘dirty’ looks in fact the reverse with some retailers actually thanking me for wearing it !

I have now refined it further by buying an NHS lanyard from etsy.com – £2.95 – and wearing this as well.

This has the added benefit of making the exemption card look totally official and quite a few members of the public giving me big smiles presumably because they think I work for the ‘wonderful’ NHS – which I don’t. Like most of us, I just pay for it.

Absolutely brilliant. All sceptics should get one!!!

And just in case you think we’ve got it bad, a reader has emailed from the People’s Republic of Victoria in Australian where things are much, much worse.

Premier Daniel Andrews has recently imposed a draconian face masks (or face coverings) requirement on us that makes England’s requirement of masks in shops and on public transport sound positively utopian. Melbournians must now wear face coverings at all times whenever they are outside their homes. This includes all workplaces, all day. There are a few anomalous exceptions. Although masks must be worn when walking for exercise, they can be taken off while jogging, cycling, drinking a takeaway coffee, smoking or vaping, or in a car with only other members of your household. Thus, a person walking outside by themselves with no-one else around must wear a face covering. Fines of $200 apply for non-compliance and social pressure from the “true believers” and media is also strongly apparent.

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. If you feel like donating, however small the sum, 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 city-sanctioned, socially distanced homeless encampment in downtown San Francisco

Picture from the Spectator USA to illustrate an article on how law and order has broken down in San Francisco. Perfect illustration of how we’ve got our priorities upside down during the Covid crisis. And in case you believed any of that guff about housing the homeless in the UK, a reader reports on his conversation with a homeless person in Lincoln yesterday:

Spoke to a homeless woman who said:

* That policy they had to house the homeless through this period (talk of hotels being repurposed) never happened.

* Council/social services/benefits were almost entirely unavailable during this period.

* Police were nowhere to be seen and it became very dangerous.

* No people in streets meant no money and no city centre shops to buy food, but some people drove down specifically to bring food parcels. Very kind.

* She knows nobody that has had the virus or anyone that they know.

* She was shocked that my ways of thinking about this episode were similar to hers – this was the first time she had met anyone that wasn’t sold on the lunacy of this irrational wave of thinking.

Latest News

Censortech

Censorship of Covid dissent reached new heights yesterday with a concerted effort by numerous social media platforms to remove all content relating to the press conference held by America’s Frontline Doctors. Not only did Facebook and YouTube remove the videos – and the server hosting the Doctors’ website disabled it – but Twitter banned Donald Trump Jr from its platform for 12 hours because he posted a tweet that contained content from the press conference relating to hydroxychloroquine. (You can still see a video of the press conference on Bitchute here.) Dr Stella Immanuel, one of the doctors featured in the video, has been widely ridiculed for her strange beliefs, branded a “witch-doctor” and had her Twitter account deleted. (You can read a transcript of some of her remarks at the press conference here.)

According to the BBC, the reason the video has been banned is because it promotes the use of hydroxychloroquine, both as a prophylactic and an effective treatment.

The video, a 45-minute livestream of the first day of a “White Coat” summit by the group, was posted to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube by Breitbart and quickly went viral.

“The virus has a cure, it’s called hydroxychloroquine, zinc, and Zithromax,” says one of the doctors in the video.

“You don’t need masks. There is a cure. I know they don’t want to open schools. No, you don’t need people to be locked down. There is prevention and there is a cure.”

Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have removed the content because it violates their “COVID-19 misinformation policies”, presumably by touting the benefits of hydroxychloroquine.

In a statement to BBC News, Twitter said: “Tweets with the video are in violation of our COVID-19 misinformation policy. We are taking action in line with our policy here.”

“We’ve removed this video for sharing false information about cures and treatments for COVID-19,” Facebook told the BBC, confirming it was also removing other versions of the video.

YouTube told the BBC: “We have removed the video for violating our COVID-19 misinformation policies.”

This view – that claiming hydroxychloroquine can be used both to prevent and cure COVID-19 is straightforwardly false and could lead to people harming themselves – appears to be based on the WHO’s official guidance.

The WHO says: “While several drug trials are ongoing, there is currently no proof that hydroxychloroquine or any other drug can cure or prevent COVID-19.”

“The misuse of hydroxychloroquine can cause serious side effects and illness and even lead to death,” it adds.

There are three things wrong with this argument for censoring America’s Frontline Doctors and anyone who links to the group’s claims.

First, while there may be no definitive “proof” that hydroxychloroquine “can cure or prevent COVID-19”, there isn’t any definitive “proof” that wearing non-surgical masks reduces the risk of infection either. Yes, there’s some evidence that non-surgical masks are effective, but then there’s also some evidence that hydroxychloroquine is effective. This study conducted by the French doctor and virologist professor Didier Raoult, for instance. That study has been subject to intense scrutiny and considerable criticism, but other, less controversial studies have also found hydroxychloroquine to be effective (see here for instance) and it’s still used in hospitals around the world to treat COVID-19 patients, including in the US. In Russia, Spain and Nigeria, as well as in some other countries, its use is recommended by the public health authorities. Yes, its “misuse” can result in harm, but that’s also true of almost any medical intervention, including face masks. Why apply a higher standard to doctors promoting hydroxychloroquine than to those promoting masks? If Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are going to ban anyone from touting the benefits of hydroxychloroquine on the grounds that there’s no definitive “proof” that it’s effective, shouldn’t they also ban anyone from touting the benefits of non-surgical masks?

Second, while some studies have shown hydroxychloroquine to be an ineffective and harmful treatment – see here and here, for instance – there isn’t any definitive “proof” that it’s ineffective and harmful. On the contrary, numerous trials are still going on around the world to try and determine how effective it is (if at all). Many of those trials were halted, including one by the WHO, after a study was published in the Lancet purporting to show the use of hydroxychloroquine increased the risk of death in COVID-19 patients, but the data cited in that paper turned out to be dubious and the Lancet subsequently retracted it and apologised. The trials have now been resumed. In the absence of “proof” that hydroxychloroquine is ineffective or harmful, why should the default positions of the Big Tech companies be to ban any doctors promoting it? In due course, the weight of evidence may point to its effectiveness, so by banning doctors from singing its praises YouTube and Twitter could be causing harm. At present, it’s far from obvious that publishing such content is more harmful than removing it.

Third, social media platforms should err on the side of free speech, so in the absence of “proof” that hydroxychloroquine is actually harmful they shouldn’t ban people promoting it. If an organisation intends to violate a person’s right to free speech – particularly a social media company – the burden of proof should be on that organisation to show that more harm will came from allowing the person to speak than from stopping them speaking, and in this case, that threshold hasn’t been met.

I’m afraid this is just another example of Big Tech companies labelling a point of view that’s endorsed by Donald Trump and other conservatives as “misinformation” to give them with an excuse for censoring it. The real reason, as always, is political.

A Patient Writes

Today’s Blower cartoon in the Telegraph

I got an email from a frustrated reader who tried and failed to get an appointment with his GP yesterday.

Two days ago I got to witness what a basket case the NHS has been turned into.

My GP does not now do face to face bookings. Nor can you book an appointment over the internet any more, you have to ring up.

So at 12.30pm I did so. I was in a queue, and I ended up hanging on the phone for 40 minutes until I spoke to a receptionist. I asked her if I could speak to a GP. She said sorry, there were no appointments available this week, but I could ring at 8am or 2pm to try and get an ’emergency’ appointment. I said it’s only 45 minutes till 2pm, could this not be sorted now: she said no, the computer system only “opens” at 2pm.

So I rang back at 2pm. It was engaged. I tried again 20 times, it was always engaged. I finally got through and was put in a queue. At 2.45 I spoke to the receptionist. I requested an emergency appointment. She said sorry, they have all gone, I’d have to try tomorrow at 8am.

At this point I pretty much broke down, saying I’d been on the phone for nearly an hour and a half today and still no sign of any appointment with a GP, and no guarantee I would get one this week, no matter how many times I rang back. I was in utter despair.

The slightly happy ending to the tale is that because I complained to her so much, she did pass a message on to the doctor, and I was rang later to tell me a prescription was ready to pick up. But no GP appointment, which is what I most need.

This is what the Government has done to the NHS thanks to its bug eyed focus on one single virus, a virus which has declined massively in the last four months. I pity those who are older than me and iller than me, this is a terrible situation with real human cost.

Btw, I live in Bath which, as far as I am aware, has had very, very few infections in the last months.

Public Hopelessly Misinformed About Covid Mortality

This is astonishing. An opinion pollster – Kekst CNC – has discovered that the people of Scotland believe that 10.23% of the UK population have died from coronavirus! That’s approximately seven million people, more than the entire population of Scotland (5.454 million). No wonder mobs of nationalists are setting up makeshift roadblocks on the English border.

Admittedly, Kekst only asked 89 Scots, so it’s a tiny sample, but the polling company asked 527 women across the UK the same question and they think that 9.91% of the population have succumbed to the virus. Men are less pessimistic – they believe 3.45% of the population have died – but the mean figure is 6.76%, or four-and-a-half million. And in the US, the mean is a whopping 9%! That’s twenty nine-and-a-half million.

This throws some light on why the British public has been so compliant with lockdown restrictions and are so keen on mandatory face coverings. (According to Kekst, 65% of the UK population is in favour of compulsory face masks in indoor public spaces.) They’ve effectively been completely terrorised by the Government and the mainstream media. Not bed-wetters, just hopelessly misinformed.

Needless to say, the real Covid death toll is <0.1% of the UK population.

Postcard From the Hague

A reader has been in touch to tell me about his recent trip to The Hague. Sounds heavenly.

I just returned from two weeks house-sitting in The Hague. The difference in atmosphere was jaw-dropping. Whilst there are some token rules (largely ignored), it is clear that the Dutch have not been subjected to anything like the kind of fear campaign that the Brits have. The city centres of The Hague, Rotterdam, and Amsterdam were all bustling and filled with lively outdoor and indoor bars cafes and restaurants, with no distancing or masks. I even attended three jazz gigs, one of which took place in a crowded bar in Amsterdam, and featured a legendary 85-year-old Dutch drummer who also happily chatted to me in close proximity afterwards without batting an eyelid. (I suppose he must be one of those old people who have decided to “keep on living”).

Returning to the UK involved a stern commandment to fill in the Government’s online form and present it at the border or risk a hefty fine. After descending the steps down to the car deck of the ferry back to Harwich behind a British woman adorned with plastic gloves, a face mask, AND a plastic visor over her head (I never saw any such thing in Holland of course), I then breezed through the passport control without any mention of the form, meaning I needn’t have bothered with it and had been merely convinced to comply voluntarily by the threat of a fine.

Now if so much as ONE person on the enormous half-empty ferry tests positive we will all be told to self-isolate, I suppose.

What’s Causing Excess Deaths in Homes?

There’s an interesting new blog post by Carl Heneghan and Daniel Howden at the Oxford Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine about the high numbers of excess deaths in homes and what the likely causes are.

While the currently registered deaths in England and Wales have fallen below the five-year average for the last five weeks, excess deaths at home remain above average and high. Over 700 excess deaths per week – 3,799 in total reported in the home setting over the past five weeks. Only 179 deaths of these have mentioned COVID-19 on the death certificate.

It is not clear why there is such excess in the home. What is clear is that this represents a huge number of unexplained – and potentially avoidable deaths – particularly if they represent individuals deterred from visiting hospitals.

The number of deaths in the home setting are almost 50% higher than the total number registered with COVID-19 in any setting over the last five weeks (3,799 versus 2,582).

Individuals deterred from visiting hospitals. If that’s not the cause, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle.

The Telegraph wrote a news story about the paper yesterday.

Masks All Removed in Unison

Not wearing a mask, even on the deck of a boat in the open sea, can attract some ‘Paddington stares’

I’ve been sent an unusually upbeat email about a trip to the seaside from a reader who identifies himself as Charlie in Warwickshire.

Myself and family booked a 1hr Coastal Sea Cruise, last Sunday morning, to leave from a Harbourside in North Devon (obscure to protect the company). When we got there, we noticed that everyone in the queue had face masks on, which I thought was odd.

It was only then that we checked the booking that said “Face Masks should (note, should) be worn on all Cruises” which is strange for many reasons – outdoors, by the Coast and in the lovely sea air on a boat where you’re sat outside.

I had my exemption card in my lanyard and then went to the booking office to ask them about it. They saw my card and were really cool about things saying – no worries, just show to one of the crew.

Went back in the queue and my partner donned her ‘bandit scarf’ and my daughter didn’t have any covering as she’s under 11.
The people in the queue ranged from couples to families, all of them in masks (including, worryingly, a few kids under five) and quite a few were giving me their best ‘Paddington Stares’ even after scrutinising my exemption card.

So, got on the boat and no problems as I sat at the back of the boat, in the outside. Captain comes on and says “going to go through some Covid awareness points but I can tell you that your masks are not necessary as we’re out in the beautiful sea air and the risk is low”.

In unison, they all removed their masks like it was some sort of revelation and surprise! All it took was someone ‘in authority’ to issue some commands and they dutifully complied.

So it was both worrying and heartening to see the masks come off. Worryingly, because they were like drones being programmed what to do, despite all their instinct and evidence telling them it was unnecessary to begin with.

If people need to be told that a face mask is not required on a sea cruise, and can’t work it out to begin with, then I weep for the future.

Round-Up

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

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

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

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

Forums Back Up and Running

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

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums that are now open. Initially, they became a spam magnet so we temporarily closed them. However, we’ve now found a team of people wiling to serve as moderators so the Forums are back up and running. Any problems, email the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster Ian Rons here.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

Some “Mask Exempt” lanyards created by a reader

I thought I’d create a new permanent slot down here for people who want to buy (or make) a “Mask Exempt” lanyard. The one featured above, or one very like it, is available for free here and 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. The Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. And you can get a “Hidden Disability” tag from eBay here.

And 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.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation recently to pay for the upkeep of this site. If you feel like donating, however small the sum, 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…

Yesterday, I reported that a house cat had supposedly tested positive for the virus. A reader was reminded of this Simpsons episode in which a “secrete conclave of America’s media empires” dream up the next “phony crisis” and hit upon “house cat flu”. A case of life imitating art?

Latest News

Dead Souls

Marc Chagall’s illustration for Dead Souls

Zugzwang, a reader of Lockdown Sceptics (not his real name, obviously), has written a great essay which I’m publishing today. The opening three paragraphs set the scene:

The anti-hero of Gogol’s Dead Souls, Pavel Ivanovich Chichikov, had his reasons for cultivating the nobility of a provincial Russian backwater, and buying from them, for a nominal sum, those of their serfs who happened to be dead. This saved the vendors an amount of poll tax (which continued to be payable for some time after death) and transformed Chichikov himself into a gentleman proprietor of some 400 serfs, potentially capable of raising a large loan on these assets and eloping (presumably under another name) with the Governor’s daughter.

When I first read Gogol, I found the whole idea totally obscure and mystifying, and I’m not sure that he ever spells out in words of one syllable how Chichikov’s business model is supposed to work. There’s a highly respectable view that the whole thing was always intended as pure shaggy-dog, and it’s only fitting that it breaks off in mid-sentence, as an act of Shandyean surrealism.

Compared with the COVID-19 mortality statistics, however, Gogol provides us with a paradigm of lucidity. Chichikov had found a way of monetising actual serfs who merely happened to have died. We have a Government agency, Public Health England, which seems to be busy manufacturing statistical deaths, to no purpose that makes even Chichikovian sense.

He then goes on to disect the official Covid death data and can discover little rhyme or reason:

Since July 17th, the daily death statistics from PHE have not been published directly by the Government, which is currently “investigating” them. But they do go on being input into the Government’s coronavirus dashboard, which is fed by PHE. Not only that, they continue to illustrate the official thesis that while the virus may be on its way out, it is going very, very, slowly. The rolling seven-day average number of deaths per day on July 26th was 66, holding its own with 68 the week before. No decline recorded at all – and 444 deaths reported by PHE in the week ending July 24th.

The thing is, though, that it is entirely mysterious where these deaths are occurring. For the week to July 24th there have so far been zero deaths reported in Scotland and Northern Ireland and just one in Wales. In the hospitals of England, the total recorded deaths (according to the NHS) were 67. So we have 376 unaccounted for (85% of them).

I’ve given it pride of place on the right-hand menu under “Are Sceptical Voices Being Suppressed?” Worth reading in full.

America’s Frontline Doctors

A group of sceptical doctors in the US, including Dr Dan Erickson, one of the two Bakersfield doctors, held a press conference on the steps of the US Supreme Court in Washington yesterday in which they talked a great deal of sense. They pointed out, among other things, that the lockdowns across the US are causing more harm than they’re preventing, that COVID-19 is treatable and that the vast majority of the population, e.g those under 65 without any co-morbidities, aren’t at risk from the disease.

Needless to say, America’s tech giants quickly moved to suppress the information. Breitbart News posted a video to Facebook yesterday which became the top-performing Facebook post in the world before the social media company removed it, and YouTube and Twitter removed footage of the press conference too. You can still view it on Breitbart, however.

The same group organised a second event yesterday at which they sang the praises of Hydroxychloroquine. If YouTube has taken it down by the time you click on this link, you can find the information at AmericanFrontlineDoctors.com.

Cat Tests Positive For Coronavirus

Patch feels gloomy after losing her sense of taste and smell

Oh no! Time for another panic. A cat has tested positive for COVID-19. The BBC has the story, although for once the news organisation is trying to tamp down the hysteria.

A pet cat has tested positive in the UK for the strain of coronavirus that is causing the current pandemic.

Experts say it is the first confirmed case of infection in an animal in the UK but does not mean the disease is being spread to people by their pets.

It’s thought the cat caught coronavirus from its owner, who had previously tested positive for the virus. Both have now recovered.

Health officials stress the case is very rare and no cause for alarm.

Reminds me of the story about the goat testing positive in Tanzania. The President, Dr John Pombe Magufuli, promptly sacked his chief health advisor, taking this as evidence that the test being used was unreliable. I wonder if the Covid cat might also be a false positive? The BBC doesn’t record whether the moggy was retested to confirm the initial diagnosis.

Heart-Rending Stories

I’ve been sent a harrowing story by a reader who works for a cancer charity.

I don’t know if this story is helpful to you at all, but I work for a national cancer charity answering support calls. I had an extremely distressing call the other week from an 90 year-old lady whose 69 year-old daughter who was in a hospice due to her advanced cancer.

The lady told me that she hadn’t seen her daughter for months – since lockdown was imposed – and knowing her daughter didn’t have long left she drove to the hospice, desperate to see her, only to be refused at the front door. Worse still, she said she was verbally reprimanded by the manager for trying to come in and told that she was putting herself and everyone else at risk.

Her daughter died a few days later. She never got to say her goodbyes….

On the phone to me, the lady was emotionally distraught, crying inconsolably. She also told me that she lives alone and had been self-isolating herself since February, which she has really struggled with as well. I have been supporting cancer patients for many years and never been lost for words, but on this occasion I was. I just felt so angry inside.

The prevention of people being able to say goodbye to their loved ones is, for me, one of the most shockingly under-covered stories throughout this whole lockdown. I’m sure this is not a one off….

And another reader sent me this story. Pretty awful, too.

I have a rather depressing story told to me by a close friend.

Her grandmother died in hospital at the start of lockdown and sadly, having tested positive for COVID-19 and locked in a Covid ward, she was not able to see her family in her final days. As it happens, the cause of death was certainly not Covid as she had been struggling with cancer for some time.

Upon trying to recover the grandmother’s belongings, however, my friend’s family were told that they were missing. The items’ total value was a sizeable four-figure sum as she had been wearing her jewellery at the time of her death. After months of wrangling with the hospitals and fears the items had been stolen, they finally received a concrete response.

The hospital said that at the time of the grandmother’s death, guidance for dealing with Covid patients’ property had not been set up, leading to large build-ups of personal property at the hospital. When guidance did materialise it stated that personal clothing (at the time, it has since changed), were to be disposed of. The hospital admitted that the likely outcome was that, due to the pressure the hospital was facing, the grandmother’s jewellery had been disposed of by mistake along with her clothing.

Of course, this caused great distress to the family in question and it has led me to wonder how many families were similarly affected. It is not inconceivable that due to this absurd guidance, the total value of patients’ lost items could be millions of pounds, and many deeply saddened families.

This whole saga seems typical of the whole national response to Covid, where an easily sterilisable item, such as an engagement ring, is thrown aside in the name of irrational Covid responses. I feel that stories and scandals like these are going to continue surfacing for months to come.

No Second Wave in Spain

Yesterday’s Blower cartoon in the Telegraph

Will Jones, a contributor to Lockdown Sceptics, has written a good piece for Conservative Woman about the needless panic over Spain’s “second wave”.

While there has in the past month been a surge in cases, mainly in Catalonia, there has been no corresponding surge in deaths nor in serious cases, which remain notably flat, indicating a surge so far either among the low risk or in the number of tests only.

Further considerations are that half the new cases in Spain are asymptomatic and we have no reason to believe that the asymptomatic are infectious. In addition, with the number of people being tested so high, and the percentage of cases so low, it’s likely that some of the uptick is due to false positives. The antigen test is notoriously unreliable, as this episode illustrates, when six out of seven staff members at a Scottish football club who’d tested positive turned out to be negative when retested.

In other words, the newly-imposed quarantine for travellers returning from Spain (and the Spanish islands) is completely pointless.

Who would have guessed?

As Alexandra Phillips points out in the Telegraph, the Government’s U-turn on quarantine travel restrictions is straight out of The Thick of It.

Worth reading Will Jones’s piece in full.

Risk of Catching the Virus From Inanimate Surfaces or Objects is Tiny

Turns out, you can’t get Covid from cans of baked beans

A reader has flagged up a recent comment in the Lancet saying the risk of catching COVID-19 from fomites – inanimate surfaces or objects – has been wildly exaggerated. The author – Professor of Microbiology, Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics at the New Jersey Medical School – points out that the studies purporting to show the virus can survive on fomites for up to six days all used huge quantities of live virus that bore no resemblance to real life situations.

In a study in which the authors tried to mimic actual conditions in which a surface might be contaminated by a patient, no viable SARS-CoV was detected on surfaces.

He concludes:

In my opinion, the chance of transmission through inanimate surfaces is very small, and only in instances where an infected person coughs or sneezes on the surface, and someone else touches that surface soon after the cough or sneeze (within 1–2 h).

Phew! This means there’s no need to “quarantine” food deliveries for three days before consuming and no need to remove clothing that’s been touched from rails in shops.

But I think we all knew that anyway.

Examples of Newspeak

I’m thinking about introducing a new regular slot featuring Orwellian use of language by the mainstream media. Here’s a gem: “Protesters in California set fire to a courthouse, damaged a police station and assaulted officers after a peaceful demonstration intensified.” (This was tweeted by ABC News in the US.) I don’t suppose I need to spell this out, but if protestors set fire to a courthouse, vandalised a police station and attacked the police, how was the demonstration “peaceful”? It’s reminiscent of that now famous BBC headline about the BLM protest that turned ugly in Whitehall: “27 officers injured in largely peaceful anti-racism protests.”

If readers notice any other examples of Newspeak, email me here.

Round-Up

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

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Three today: “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey” by the Beatles, “Let’s Not Go Shopping” by Robbie Williams and “House Arrest” by Gorgon City x SOFI TUKKER.

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

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

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

Note to the Good Folks Below the Line

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

We created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums, but they became a magnet for spam (apologies for mixed metaphor) so we’ve temporarily closed them. However, we can open them again if some readers volunteer to be moderators. If you’d like to do this, please email Ian Rons, the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster, here – and thanks to those who’ve already volunteered. We’ll be re-opening the Forums soon.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

I thought I’d create a new permanent slot down here for people who want to buy (or make) a “Mask Exempt” lanyard. The one featured above is available for free here and 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. The Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. And you can get a “Hidden Disability” tag from eBay here.

Although bear in mind that some mask Nazis are so deranged they may just go completely nuts if they see you not wearing one in public. In San Diego, a man having a picnic with his wife in a public park was maced by a woman for not covering his face.

Meanwhile, here’s Peter Hitchens railing against face masks on Mike Graham’s TalkRadio show yesterday.

And you can sign the petition on the UK Government’s petitions website to end mandatory face nappies in shops here.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation recently to pay for the upkeep of this site. If you feel like donating, however small the sum, 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 the latest episode of London Calling, James Delingpole and I talk about being part of the anti-mask rebel alliance, why Covid rule enforcement appeals to aggressive conformists and the unconvincing rhetoric of Sasha, the Oxford BLM rabble rouser. If you enjoy the podcast, please do subscribe.

Latest News

Fatties – You Don’t Need to Worry About Dying From Coronavirus

Shall I have just one more wafer thin mint?

Matt Hancock has written an article for the Telegraph today in which he warns people who are “morbidly obese” that they are at a higher risk of dying from COVID-19.

Obesity is one of the greatest long term health challenges that we face as a country.

It not only puts a strain on our NHS and care system, but it also piles pressure on our bodies, making us more vulnerable to many diseases, including of course coronavirus.

The latest research shows that if you have a BMI of between 30 and 35 your risk of death from coronavirus goes up by at least a quarter.

And that nearly 8 per cent of critically ill patients with coronavirus in intensive care are morbidly obese compared at around 3 per cent of the country as a whole.

He concludes:

If everyone who is overweight lost five pounds it could save the NHS over £100 million over the next five years. And more importantly, given the link between obesity and coronavirus, losing weight could be lifesaving.

So just how great is the risk of dying from coronavirus if you’re a fatty?

According to the latest ONS infection survey data, about one in 2,300 people had COVID-19 in England in the week of July 6th to 12th. Now, that’s not very reliable because the false positive rate for the antigen test could easily be one in 2,300, so to confirm this the ONS would need to re-test anyone testing positive to confirm the result – which it hasn’t done, obviously. Nevertheless, let’s assume that’s correct – that the number of people infected with coronavirus in England is 1/2,300 or about 24,350 (56,000,000/2,300). We know that the number of new cases is declining because the R is less than one, but for the sake of argument let’s assume that after 14 days, when those 24,350 people have either died or recovered, they’ve each passed it on to one other person. So that means the total number of people infected in England over the course of a year is ~633,100 (24,350 x 26). Again, a huge overestimate, but let’s give the bed-wetters the benefit of the doubt. So if you’re an Englishman, your chances of contracting the virus over the course of the next 12 months is 633,100 in 56,000,000 or 1.13%.

Now what are your chances of dying from COVID-19 if you’re unlucky enough to get it? It varies with age, obviously, but let’s assume an IFR of 0.26%, the last-but-one CDC estimate which I suspect was a little high. Again, benefit of the doubt. That means the average chance of an Englishman catching and then succumbing to the virus are ~0.0029%. Let’s add Matt Hancock’s 25% – the increase in your chances of catching COVID-19 and dying if you have a BMI of between 30 and 35 – and it comes to ~0.0036% or one in ~27,777.78. That’s remarkably similar to your chances of dying in a road traffic accident in the UK – and remember, that’s all ages, so if you just look at under-65 year-olds your chances of dying from COVID-19 are far, far lower than your chances of dying in a road traffic accident, even if you’re morbidly obese.

Don’t worry, Mr Creosote. I think you’ve got room for one more wafer thin mint.

Teaching Unions Demand Compulsory Muzzles in Schools

A scene from Good Omens

It was inevitable. The General Secretary of the National Union of Bed-Wetters – I mean, the NASUWT – has called for face coverings to be mandatory in schools and colleges. The Telegraph has the story.

Patrick Roach, the General Secretary of the NASUWT teachers’ union, said: “The Government’s guidance for schools is now out of step with wider public health guidance and guidance to other employers where it is recognised that, where physical distancing cannot be assured, face masks should be worn.

“Teachers and other staff working in schools also want to be assured that, when they return to the workplace in September, they will be afforded the same level of protection as other workers, and that the guidance for schools will be brought into line with guidance for other workplaces.”

Mr Roach noted that Government advice means children over the age of 11 are required to wear coverings when they visit “a range” of facilities such as shops and banks. He said: “So there is a strong argument that face masks should also be made compulsory for children when they return to secondary schools in September.”

The teaching unions must know that only four children under the age of 15 have died from COVID-19 in the whole of the UK and no one has been able to document a single case of a child infecting an adult anywhere in the world. So why the insistence of face nappies? I can only assume it is to make it even harder for schools to re-open in September so the unions’ dues-paying members can extend their six-month holiday.

Stand firm on this one, Gavin Williamson. Make it clear that face masks won’t be required in schools and any teacher refusing to turn up for work in September will be sacked.

In the meantime, you can sign this petition started by Them For Us.

Stop Press: Some US colleges are insisting on painful nasal swab tests for all students every other day.

Track and Trace Programme is Unlawful

“Matt, is that really you? What? Say it again? What?”

Lockdown Sceptics has a special correspondent who’s been following the slow-motion car crash that is Matt Hancock’s track-and-trace programme since it was first unveiled. Here’s his latest report.

The UK Government has conceded that its flagship contact tracing programme has been operating unlawfully since its May 28th launch.

Digital rights campaigners at the Open Rights Group (ORG) have forced the Government to admit that its track-and-trace programme has been operating unlawfully. The programme was not subject to a full Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) as required under GDPR. If only they had paid attention to Lockdown Sceptics on May 28th, when we warned of precisely this risk. Apparently, the Government developed the scheme “at such pace and scale” that it was not a primary focus. So going at things in a rush is now a defence?

But who cares about DPIAs and GDPR? It’s not as if contact tracers are sharing patients’ data on social media. Oh wait, what’s this? Coronavirus contact tracers have been sharing patients’ data on WhatsApp and Facebook.

Where is our indomitable UK regulator in all this? It appears the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) see themselves as “a critical friend” of the Government providing guidance and advice. Well that’s nice, but if it is not too much trouble could they please do their job and take meaningful action on behalf of UK citizens?

Cut-Out-And-Keep “Mask Exempt” Cards

A reader has got in touch to point out that “Mask Exempt” cards are available for free from this medical centre’s website. Just download the PDF and print it out. The site even provides a handy dotted line so you can cut out the card and laminate it yourself. And the upside is, you are only claiming you have a “reasonable excuse” for not wearing a face nappy and not falsely claiming to have a specific disability.

Further to your post on lanyards today, I would like to contribute my experience.

I have so far been in three big chain shops since Friday, including Co-op, Waitrose and Currys. In each case I was, depressingly, the only mask dissenter.

I am uneasy with claiming a disability when there is no such reason at all for me to not wear a mask. I was therefore pleased to find the this PDF which I printed out and placed in a holder I had in a drawer. The wording of the dark blue ones is wonderfully appropriate – I have many very reasonable excuses! And my conscience is clear in not claiming disability. Perhaps it’s worth drawing this link to the attention of our friends?

Round-Up

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

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Just one today: “No More Heroes” by the Stranglers.

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

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

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

Note to the Good Folks Below the Line

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

We created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums, but they became a magnet for spam (apologies for mixed metaphor) so we’ve temporarily closed them. However, we can open them again if some readers volunteer to be moderators. If you’d like to do this, please email Ian Rons, the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster, here – and thanks to those who’ve already volunteered. We’ll be re-opening the Forums soon.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation recently to pay for the upkeep of this site. If you feel like donating, however small the sum, 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…

Handy guide to what wearing a mask says about you, as compiled by American cartoonist Ben Garrison.

Latest News

UnHerd Interview With Anders Tegnell

Freddie Sayers, the editor of UnHerd, has done an interview with Anders Tegnell, the architect of Sweden’s coronavirus strategy, that’s worth watching.

Freddie kicks off by asking him whether he thinks Sweden’s strategy has been a failure or a success.

I think to a great extent it’s been a success. We are now seeing rapidly falling cases, we have continuously had healthcare that has been working, there have been free beds at any given time, never any crowding in the hospitals, we have been able to keep schools open which we think is extremely important, and society fairly open — while still having social distancing in place in a way that means that the spread of the disease has been limited.

The failure has of course been the death toll… that has been very much related to the long-term care facilities in Sweden. Now that has improved, we see a lot less cases in those facilities.

Tegnell is careful not to claim that Sweden has avoided a lockdown altogether. Rather, it has had a partial lockdown, with the decline in economic and social activity being largely voluntary.

In many ways the voluntary measures we put in place in Sweden have been just as effective as complete lockdowns in other countries. So I don’t think complete lockdown is the way to go for all countries… the rapidly declining cases we see in Sweden right now is another indication that you can get the number of cases down quite a lot in a country without having a complete lockdown.

He is also cautious about claiming the absence of a full lockdown in Sweden has been beneficial and acknowledges that he doesn’t really know whether the Swedish death toll would be lower had they locked everyone down. But he points out that we do know that lockdowns cause considerable collateral damage.

It would have made maybe some difference, we don’t know. But on the other hand we know that lockdowns also have big other effects on public health. We know that closing schools has a great effect on children’s health in the short and the long term. We know that people being out of work also produces a lot of problems in the public health area. So we also have to look at what are the negative effect of lockdowns, and that has not been done very much so far.

However, one thing he is sure about is that trying to suppress or eradicate the virus is a mistake.

I don’t think that this is a disease that we can eradicate – not with the methods that we have right now. It might be a disease that in the long term we can eradicate with a vaccine, but I’m not even sure about that. If you look at comparable diseases like the flu and other respiratory viruses we are not even close to eradicating them despite the fact that we have a vaccine. I personally believe that this is a disease we are going to have to learn to live with.

Throughout the interview, Tegnell sound both modest and sensible – a far cry from our own public health panjandrums. That’s particularly true when he talks about why face masks haven’t been made mandatory in Sweden, my favourite part of the interview.

One reason is that the evidence base for using masks in society is still very weak. Even if more and more countries are now enforcing them in different ways … we haven’t seen any new evidence coming up, which is a little bit surprising. The other reason is that everything tells us that keeping social distance is a much better way of controlling this disease than putting masks on people. We are worried (and we get at least tales from other countries) that people put on masks and then they believe they can go around in society being close to each other, even going around in society being sick. And that, in our view, would definitely produce higher spread than we have right now.

Worth watching in full.

Poor Risk Assessment

A reader heard a worker in the City of London interviewed on Radio 4 yesterday who said something astonishingly stupid, even by bed-wetting standards.

I heard someone on the radio this morning saying she had bought a Harley-Davison to drive to work in Mayfair, in order to – you guessed it – “stay safe”. But if the fatality risk for a person of working age from COVID-19 is roughly equivalent to a daily car drive of about 50 miles, and motorbikes are 25 times more dangerous than driving, it would seem that a motorcycle commute of two miles poses a greater threat to life and limb than coronavirus. Lesson: If you want to stay safe, you must remain sane.

NHS Hospitals in England Reported No Deaths on Three Days Last Week

I have one eagle-eyed reader who checks the daily data releases from NHS England about the number of deaths recorded in hospitals in the previous 24 hours. This is what he found last week:

There were three days during this past week in which the report released for that day recorded ZERO deaths during the previous 24 hour period.

July 21st for the period 4pm July 19th – 4pm July 20th
July 22nd for the period 4pm July 20th – 4pm July 21st
July 24th for the period 4pm July 21st – 4pm July 22nd

During the previous week, this only occurred on two days.

When I’ve reported these findings in the past, readers have contacted me to point out that in the latest data releases for NHS England, the days that initially recorded no deaths in earlier releases have subsequently had deaths assigned to them. That’s due to the much-discussed delay in the reporting. Nevertheless, what my correspondent says is true: when the data release for the 24-hour period in question was first released, it showed zero deaths.

Will Face Nappies Kill the High Street?

Oxford Street yesterday afternoon

In his column in today’s Mail on Sunday, Peter Hitchens says Boris’s decision to make face masks mandatory in shops will kill off what’s left of the hight street.

The Government’s dedicated efforts to destroy our economy and an entire way of life have moved up a step.

High streets had just begun to stir feebly back into life after months of enforced shutdown. Then the futile decree went out from Downing Street that customers must wear muzzles.

And what will happen? Why, more people will choose not to bother to go near shops at all. They will buy from the internet giants instead.

I fear he’s right and this picture a reader took on Oxford Street yesterday confirms it. On a normal Saturday afternoon, Oxford Street would be teeming with people, but it’s now almost deserted. Meanwhile, Jeff Bezos’s fortune has increased to $171.6 billion, cementing his status as the richest man in the world.

France’s Philosopher-King is a Lockdown Sceptic

Bernard-Henri Lévy, France’s rock-star philosopher

The most famous philosophe in France, Bernard-Henri Lévy, has a new book out in which he argues that coronavirus has sent the world into “psychotic delirium”. In an interview in the Sunday Times he summarises the thesis of The Virus in the Age of Madness.

“People keep saying this is an unprecedented pandemic,” he says. “It is not true. Humanity has had to deal with many pandemics, often more grave than this one. There seems to be an intention, a collective desire, to panic. It is not as big a disaster as we think.”

“There is a sort of unilateral focus: Covid, Covid, Covid. It completely erased any other information,” Lévy says. He writes of the world falling into a state of “psychotic delirium” and of witnessing “the spectacle of world leaders so terrified by the threat of a corona Nuremberg that they deemed it more prudent to put the world on hold, caring little for the outbreaks of hunger, violence against the poor, and authoritarian takeovers that were sure to follow”.

He rages against “the dieticians, the prophylactocrats, vegetocrats and ecolocrats”, and against those finger-waggers telling us we deserved Covid. “Oozing goodness and contrition, they sing, reminding us that even before the pandemic they warned against the folly of a world that could not continue as it was, a world headed straight into a wall.”

Now he says: “People on the right and left are telling us that we had too much enjoyment and we have to be penitent and so on. This is such an unprogressive rhetoric. This is the most stupid and stubborn, profane religion, the opposite of what the progressives should be. This is exactly the best way to bury all the liberal and democratic dreams that made the West great.”

Sounds like a must read. If you can bear enriching Jeff Bezos even further, you can buy the book here.

Lanyard Success

A “mask exempt” lanyard

A reader gets in touch to say his “mask exempt” lanyard is working like a treat.

I must thank you for recommending the “mask exempt” lanyards. I received mine yesterday and immediately took it for a test ride on public transport. During my journey from Didcot Parkway to Lille Europe, using Great Western, London Underground and Eurostar I was only challenged twice (both times in St. Pancras International). I simply pointed to my lanyard and said that I have a medical condition. No further questions!

You can buy your very own “mask exempt” lanyard here.

Round-Up

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

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Just one today: “Cover Me” by Bruce Springsteen.

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

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

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

Note to the Good Folks Below the Line

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

We created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums, but they became a magnet for spam (apologies for mixed metaphor) so we’ve temporarily closed them. However, we can open them again if some readers volunteer to be moderators. If you’d like to do this, please email Ian Rons, the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster, here – and thanks to those who’ve already volunteered. We’ll be re-opening the Forums soon.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation recently to pay for the upkeep of this site. If you feel like donating, however small the sum, 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…

Cancel that racist white dog now

Latest News

Boris Johnson is Mistaken About His Mistakes

PM: “I didn’t have a clue about the virus back in March and I still don’t Laura.”

In an interview with Laura Kuenssberg for the BBC to mark his first anniversary of becoming Prime Minister, Boris Johnson admitted to having made mistakes in his initial response to the pandemic. Unfortunately, they were the wrong mistakes.

I think it’s fair to say that there are things that we need to learn about how we handled it in the early stages… There will be plenty of opportunities to learn the lessons of what happened.

Maybe there were things we could have done differently, and of course there will be time to understand what exactly we could have done, or done differently.

We didn’t understand [the virus] in the way that we would have liked in the first few weeks and months.

The single thing that we didn’t see at the beginning is the extent to which is was being transmitted asymptomatically from person to person. That wasn’t clear to us or to anybody.

What people really want to focus on now is what are we doing to prepare for the next phase.

Not clear to anybody? What nonsense is this? There was plenty of speculation that the virus could be transmitted by asymptomatic carriers from almost the first moment it was identified. In late January, Dr Anthony Fauci told CNN: “There’s no doubt after reading this paper that asymptomatic transmission is occurring.”

The paper he was referring too was a study published on January 30th in the New England Journal of Medicine.

But we now know there’s reason to doubt these preliminary research findings. At a WHO press conference on June 8th, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead on the pandemic, said:

We have a number of reports from countries who are doing very detailed contact tracing. They’re following asymptomatic cases, they’re following contacts and they’re not finding secondary transmission onward. It’s very rare and much of that is not published in the literature.

From the papers that are published there’s one that came out from Singapore looking at a long-term care facility. There are some household transmission studies where you follow individuals over time and you look at the proportion of those that transmit onwards.

We are constantly looking at this data and we’re trying to get more information from countries to truly answer this question. It still appears to be rare that an asymptomatic individual actually transmits onward.

This caused a sensation at the time and the WHO subsequently issued a “clarification” saying that it simply don’t know whether the virus can be transmitted by people who are genuinely asymptomatic.

Dr Van Kerkhove’s admission was a “gaffe” in the classic sense of the word: when someone in a position of authority inadvertently tells the truth.

So Boris is (sort of) admitting that he should have imposed a lockdown earlier, even though he shouldn’t, and claiming the reason he didn’t is because he hadn’t realised back then that scientists studying the disease wrongly assumed asymptomatic transmission was a key driver of the pandemic, even though every man and his dog thought that back in March. However, he has now embraced this assumption – just when we have good reason to doubt it – and is now fully prepared for the next wave, i.e. the Government will repeat the same mistake it made in March and indiscriminately lock up the healthy as well as the sick this winter.

Meanwhile, on a walkabout in the Tollgate Medical Centre in Beckton, Boris said we wouldn’t have defeated the virus until “the middle of next year” and hinted that we would still be forced to wear masks in shops (and possibly the workplace) until then.

Give me strength.

New Essay by Guy de la Bédoyère

Victorian state premier Daniel Andrews keeps on eye on his disobedient citizens

I’m publishing a great new essay today by the historian and regular Lockdown Sceptics contributor Guy de la Bédoyère. The meat of it is an account of the dire situation in the state of Victoria in Australia, where the incompetent state premier Daniel Andrews has imposed a second lockdown. But there’s some great stuff before that in which Guy vents his frustration about mandatory face nappies:

One of my former colleagues has a nurse for a daughter and she has thrown herself with characteristic zealotry into the role of being the mother of a saint. Not only has she busied herself at her sewing machine churning out scrubs but also proclaimed her righteous joy in the ostentatious wearing of masks. She does this, she says, not because she’s scared, because she isn’t (so she says), but because of her solidarity with the legions of angels in the NHS, “it’s the right thing to do”, and she is doing it for the wider good of the community. She might as well have called the latter Volksgemeinschaft.

There is an ominous and crazy religious tone to all this, and she is not alone in exhibiting an inclination to participate in Covid Cult Culture. Masks have rapidly become the symbol of moral superiority, amounting almost to being a badge denoting membership of the Party. Wear a mask and you’re a good person, conspicuously virtue-signalling in public. Don’t wear one and you’re a bad person, a lesser being, a walking symbol of the fear that stalks the streets. In short, you risk becoming the Devil’s hand-servant, a pariah, an enemy of the state. No matter that even surgical masks are only tested on their Bacterial Filtration Efficiency (BFE) (European Standard EN14683:2019) and splash resistance – viruses don’t come into it. Cheapo face-covering masks don’t even meet that standard. Viruses, which are much smaller, don’t come into it – the efficacy is really only limited to splash resistance. If you want a mask that stops viruses you have to have a respirator-type mask.

Worth reading in full.

More Masks Than Jellyfish in the Sea

Joffrey Peltier of French environmentalist non-profit Opération Mer Propre catches the wrong kind of fish

Anyone who’s been on a country walk recently will have seen discarded masks despoiling the natural environment. (I even saw some in the Dolomites on my recent visit to Italy.) But the situation threatens to become even worse in the world’s oceans. According to a story in the Guardian:

Conservationists have warned that the coronavirus pandemic could spark a surge in ocean pollution – adding to a glut of plastic waste that already threatens marine life – after finding disposable masks floating like jellyfish and waterlogged latex gloves scattered across seabeds.

The French non-profit Opération Mer Propre, whose activities include regularly picking up litter along the Côte d’Azur, began sounding the alarm late last month.

Divers had found what Joffrey Peltier of the organisation described as “Covid waste” – dozens of gloves, masks and bottles of hand sanitiser beneath the waves of the Mediterranean, mixed in with the usual litter of disposable cups and aluminium cans.

CNN broadcast a similar report last month:

Beaches on the French Côte d’Azur like Cannes or St. Tropez are among the most coveted vacation spots worldwide, but now the coronavirus pandemic has left an abundance of pollutants in the water: discarded masks and gloves.

“How would you like swimming with COVID-19 this summer?” Laurent Lombard, a diver and founder of the nonprofit Opération Mer Propre (Operation Clean Sea) asked in a Facebook post last month.

Wall St Journal Op Ed Section Sees Off Woke Mob

The Wall St Journal‘s editorial board responds to attempts by snowflake junior staffers to censor conservative content

I’m a huge fan of the Wall St Journal‘s op ed page, which I’ve contributed to many times. It is one of the last outposts of classical liberalism in America’s mainstream media. Consequently, I was alarmed when a letter signed by 280 Wall St Journal reporters, condemning the opinion pages for spreading “misinformation” (woke-speak for conservative views), was leaked last week. Would the paper’s editorial board buckle in response to a revolt by junior staff, mimicking what happened at the New York Times last month? Thankfully not. The editorial board published a robust response yesterday:

It was probably inevitable that the wave of progressive cancel culture would arrive at the Journal, as it has at nearly every other cultural, business, academic and journalistic institution. But we are not the New York Times. Most Journal reporters attempt to cover the news fairly and down the middle, and our opinion pages offer an alternative to the uniform progressive views that dominate nearly all of today’s media.

As long as our proprietors allow us the privilege to do so, the opinion pages will continue to publish contributors who speak their minds within the tradition of vigorous, reasoned discourse. And these columns will continue to promote the principles of free people and free markets, which are more important than ever in what is a culture of growing progressive conformity and intolerance.

Worth reading in full.

Meanwhile, Barbara Kay, a longstanding conservative columnist at Canada’s National Post, has resigned. It seems the editorial board of the Post is not as robust as its counterpart at the Journal. Shame. Kay is a great columnist.

Round-Up

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

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Just one today: “New Rules” by Dia Lupa.

Small Businesses That Have Re-Opened

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

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

Note to the Good Folks Below the Line

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

We created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums, but they became a magnet for spam (apologies for mixed metaphor) so we’ve temporarily closed them. However, we can open them again if some readers volunteer to be moderators. If you’d like to do this, please email Ian Rons, the Lockdown Sceptics webmaster, here.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation recently to pay for the upkeep of this site. If you feel like donating, however small the sum, 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…

Man finds new use for face nappy

This brave soul walked down Oxford St yesterday wearing a face mask – and nothing else! The Evening Standard, which has several photographs of the gentleman, does not disclose whether he was allowed into H&M or Top Shop.

Meanwhile, a reader points out how ineffective masks have been in South Africa:

They made masks compulsory outside the home on May 1st, when they had 5,951 cases.

Now they’ve had 408,502 cases.

“Imagine how bad it would have been without the masks” is the response of believers in the new religion of face masks.