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The Future Shape of Things

Sebastian Friebel
Former parliamentary adviser to the German Bundestag

Dear fellow citizens,

I am addressing you as a non-partisan former employee of the German Bundestag with the function of a parliamentary adviser. As a result of my work in parliament and in a parliamentary group, I have become aware that the people in our country are being deliberately deprived of information on the corona crisis which is of crucial importance for assessing the situation. In view of the enormous significance of recent events, I consider it my duty to my fellow citizens to raise these issues publicly. So as to be able to express myself as freely as possible on these issues, I have resigned from my position in the Bundestag.

I suppose many will lay this text aside after just a few lines because they feel sufficiently informed about all aspects of the crisis. I understand this, because I too used to assumed that, when major events occur, we citizens would always be apprised of the background facts. But in the meantime, not least because of my experiences in parliament, I have been obliged to recognise the methods used worldwide by governments, the media and major players in the global economy to the detriment of us all, and to see that often the population is regrettably too uncritical in its response. I hope that despite this widespread lack of concern about political developments, some of you will at least check out the information provided here.

Some of what I report in the following will be considered by many readers as impossible and will be firmly rejected. I would like to say to these people that in publishing this report I am taking on considerable personal risk, and I would not dare to take this step if I were unsure of my statements. I do not want to say much about myself at this point. You, dear reader, only need to know the following about me: I am writing this report in sincere concern for the security, freedom and prosperity of us all. These fundamental pillars of our democracy are acutely endangered because the Corona crisis is being instrumentalised, and our legitimate concerns about the virus being exploited for third-party objectives.

I must stress at this point that I do not consider the health risks associated with the virus as trivial. Corona can pose a serious risk, particularly for the elderly and those who are already ill. This fact is undisputed. But the crisis must not blind us to other serious developments that directly affect us all and about which at the same time we know very little.

It is important that we, as a society, should again become capable of exchanging information without prejudice and with good will, even on controversial issues. We in Germany urgently need to learn once more how to listen to and respect each other. If we do not find our way back to this kind of coexistence our society will finally splinter into hostile groups. Unfortunately, responses to the Corona crisis have already contributed to further widening the social divide. But as a result, we as citizens lose sight of our common interests and play into the hands of those who see every crisis first and foremost in the light of a business model.

Politicians and the main stream media are currently trying to distract our attention from the serious political and economic changes that are being implemented in connection with the pandemic, having shown up, in this time of Corona, right on cue. One of their aims to ensure that people, in their fear of the virus, accept measures and permanent restrictions which, given the situation, are in no way justified by the need to maintain social order and are threatening the economic existence of millions of people.

With this report I would like to give my fellow citizens a helping hand so they can deal with publicly accessible sources, and themselves form a picture of these circumstances and of the true extent of the Corona crisis. I cordially invite you to scrutinise my remarks, before the possibility is permanently taken away by the widespread censorship to which we are increasingly subject.

I. The World Economic Forum (WEF)

…as the mouthpiece of the most influential international corporates and major banks, is using the crisis as an instrument to push forward a long-prepared agenda for the world economy.1 This ‘Great Reset’ is presented as a change at global level towards a sustainable economy, but this is a deception. Actually the companies of the WEF, which is mainly controlled by the financial and digital industries, want a centralisation of political power in supranational institutions such as the United Nations, the EU and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).2 They justify this shift of power on the pretext of managing international crises for the welfare of the population.3 But is it realistic to think that the largest corporations in the world are suddenly so concerned with the well-being of the individual? Or are they exploiting the goodwill of people who want a fair and peaceful world, and see supranational organisations as possibly being the key to this?

Former UN leaders warn against abuse of the United Nations

Former UN leaders warn that strengthening these organisations under the current influence of the large corporations enables the latter to undermine democratic control of the global economy and the political power of elected parliaments.4 In this way the resistance of individual states to the privatisation orgies of financial speculators can be circumvented, which would greatly benefit their economic interests. So these companies are using the crisis in order to expand their own possibilities of influence. In addition, they want to force out the middle classes permanently and take over the market shares released as a result. For all these objectives, Corona and the the global economic crisis associated with it hand them everything on a plate. The forces behind the WEF are therefore using their political influence in order to prolong the crisis artificially and bring about the restructuring of the world economy in accordance with their own agenda. This may sound abstract and suggestive of conspiracy theory, but the announcement of the ‘Great Reset’, right at the height of the Corona crisis, speaks volumes in this regard.

To avoid adverse reactions by the population, and especially the middle classes, to these alarming developments, they wrap the plan in a heart-warming story of a humane, ecological globalisation, and hide their real aim of a shift in power behind attractive-sounding clichés like ‘global governance’ or ‘public-private partnership’. But how credible is it, when precisely those forces which have been unleashed for decades by unprecedented overexploitation of nature at the expense of the general public, suddenly present themselves in a green guise? The fact that the United Nations too promotes this worldwide campaign by the banking sector and large corporations, be it said in passing, only points to the already mentioned misuse of the UN for private sector interests.5 It is to be feared that political functionaries worldwide will soon demand that the UN, WHO etc. be given more authority – ‘only’ because of Corona and other crises, of course. But in the end, who would really reap the benefit?

Global economic crisis favours transformation of the world economy

Many citizens see the economic crisis that has arisen as a result of the Corona measures as proof that governments put public health above the interests of business. Unfortunately, precisely the opposite is true: the crisis plays right into the hands of the world’s most influential corporations with their aspired-to transformation of the world economy, very much at the expense of small to medium-sized enterprises. The transfer of political power to higher levels further favours this development. Recently, Bundestag President Schäuble even spoke about this himself with astonishing openness, when he said:

The corona crisis is a great opportunity. In the crisis, resistance to change is diminished. We can now bring about the economic and financial union that we have so far failed to achieve by political means […]’6

It was certainly not his intention, but Schäuble himself illustrates, with this statement, why the crisis is very convenient for the long planned transformation. The centralisation of the economy towards a small number of large corporations and financial investors will be further accelerated by economic union. The most senior political functionaries are aware of these interactions. Some remain silent because they benefit financially or career-wise from these developments. The others keep silent because they know that if they utter just one honest word, the assembled forces of the media and politics will turn on them and put an abrupt end to their political careers. Only a few give even an indication of who this crisis really benefits.

Supranational institutions enable corporations to exert an undemocratic influence. If not enough people recognise in time the dangers of a further concentration of power in the hands of a few large institutions and resist this, then we could soon find ourselves in a world in which our democratically legitimised governments have virtually no power of decision any more. This has long been the case in fiscal policy, which is why redistribution from the hard-working to the rich is likewise proceeding unchecked. In addition, ‘because of Corona’ they now also want to transfer the economic policies of all EU member states to the European Union. However, one should have no illusions as to who will benefit from an increase in the powers of the EU Commission: economic policy at EU level would only serve the interests of transnational companies such as Amazon, BlackRock, Goldman Sachs etc. – an unprecedented privatisation and deregulation would be the consequence. The EU’s attitude is already evident, for example, in the de facto tax exemption enjoyed by digital groups and its privileged treatment of the financial sector. Sahra Wagenknecht describes this relationship as follows:

If more and more competences are now being shifted to a level where the economy, and above all the big companies are much more influential than any other interest group, it is clear what happens: democracy is undermined even more, profit interests become even more shamelessly predominant. It is a complete illusion to believe that a European government would stand up to big business better than national governments. The truth is that because of the balance of power on the EU level, the exact opposite is the case: the more Brussels decides, the easier it is for the mega-corporations to assert their interests.7

Medium-sized businesses and agriculture are bought up, jobs are cut

In parallel to the desired shift in power, governments are ensuring through the Corona measures that large numbers of medium-sized companies can be bought up by large mega-corporations and financial investors. Similar worrying developments have been seen for some years in agriculture. At the same time, Corona is being used as a pretext for widespread job cuts, which is a basic prerequisite for the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’, i.e. the digital transformation of the economy. This approach is in line with the ‘Great Reset’ agenda and I am afraid has very little to do with the welfare of the population. I therefore appeal in particular to all small and medium-sized enterprises to resist these efforts. For most workers, too, these vigorously pursued plans pose an existential threat because a fully digitised, fully centralised world economy will be able to manage with a much smaller workforce. The road of digitisation thus leads directly towards a conditional (not unconditional) basic income which would entail total dependence. Or, as Siemens Managing Director Joe Kaeser expressed it:

Digitisation will displace the middle class […] And of ten people affected, only one will rise in the world, nine will go down. And I guarantee you: if there is one thing, that will stop the digital movement, then it will be social unrest.8

So should we uncritically go along with the narrative of digitalisation as salvation, built up by the media and the politicians in the corona crisis? Or is something being forced on us here, whereby in the end the disadvantages to us all will predominate?

II. Digital companies and governments worldwide

…are instrumentalising the fear of the virus to achieve social acceptance for comprehensive digital surveillance and control systems. These systems, which include contact tracing, digital identities, biometric face recognition and digital immunity certificates, are designed for totalitarian control of the entire population. In China, the full range of these inhuman technologies is already in use, which means that the most basic rights of citizens can be restricted by AI-based systems. The combination of a ‘Corona app’ and a preliminary stage of digital immunity certificates is being used to automatically deprive citizens of their freedom of movement if their ‘health status’, as detected by the machine, does not meet the specifications.9 Cameras with facial recognition additionally record and identify every person in public space. The 5G mobile phone standard enables this form of mass monitoring in real time. So in China digital technology determines who is still allowed to leave their home. Such a society can hardly be described as anything but a technocratic tyranny. I am sorry to say that similar plans are also being pursued by our own federal government. It, too, is already seeking to introduce a so-called ‘vaccination or immunity documentation system’, depriving people in our country of basic rights such as freedom of travel and freedom of assembly, or allowing them such rights only if they can prove immunity, e.g. through vaccination.10 These intentions are no different from those of the Chinese dictatorship, and it is only thanks to public protest in Germany that the government has not yet been able to pass this legislation in its original form.

Financial and digital groups set up global surveillance architecture

This year, the World Economic Forum will introduce the ‘CommonPass’, a system for international travel, likewise aimed at surveillance and control of access to public life and freedom of travel worldwide. This system requires people to have a kind of ‘digital identity’, as well as uploading their vaccination status and/or Corona test results to a database, in order to be able to travel at all.11

The project is supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, Google, the major bank J.P. Morgan, the financial group BlackRock and representatives of the United Nations.12 The aim of the institutions and companies involved is to encourage all governments worldwide to use the system. This again shows (besides the above-mentioned ‘Great Reset’) the global ambition of the corporations behind the project, and again the UN is being instrumentalised for their purposes. The question arises as to why the financial groups in particular have such a strong interest in monitoring and controlling people, and why they are willing to invest such a lot of money in the development of these technologies.

Return to normality only with digital surveillance?

Taking into account the current data situation on coronavirus, the German Ethics Council still advises against the introduction of such systems, but does not entirely exclude them for the future.13 It can therefore be assumed that digital immunity certificates or something like the CommonPass will be presented to us in the course of the coming months by the media and the government, as a prerequisite for a return to normality. Several German companies already offer digital surveillance systems, which automatically check whether a person has normal body temperature and is wearing a mask. Some of these systems are already being combined with facial recognition, and manufacturers advertise them as providing ‘effective real-time monitoring of faces with or without masks’.14 Should these technologies be introduced in Germany, it would be a first step towards the Chinese social credit system. I do not want to accustom myself to the idea that such technology will soon be capable of determining our freedom of movement. My concern, however, is that some people would give up their individual freedom for a deceptive sense of security. But are such massive surveillance measures really a proportionate response to the coronavirus situation?

Edward Snowden warns against global architecture of oppression

In this context, I personally agree with Edward Snowden, who has warned against a worldwide architecture of repression using digital technology and suggested that it could outlive the crisis.15 If we allow digital systems to control our freedom of movement and access to public life, by the same token we are giving control of our most fundamental rights over to the digital infrastructure operators. One look at China is enough for us to recognise the real dangers of such a technocratic form of society.

No one should have to live in a world like this, but because of our heedless attitude to the technically feasible we are all increasingly being pushed in this direction. This applies equally to Europe, even though at first glance we may find it hard to imagine. The fact that the 5G network, unlike the previous private mobile phone infrastructure in Germany, is being set up with a lot of tax money, speaks in this context for the fact that this technology will be used, in our country too, primarily for mass state surveillance. In the summer of 2019, at one of the numerous lobbying events in Berlin, I asked the Chief Technical Officer of the world’s largest network equipment supplier whether 5G is actually being developed for private users, and if so, for what specific applications the technology is intended to be used. His answer, that 5G was being developed for ‘professional purposes’, reinforces my belief that this is by no means a matter of the needs of the population. It is therefore a perfidious approach by the federal government that it now wants to implement these old plans by using the money from a ‘Corona Recovery Package’.16

Microsoft and the Rockefeller Foundation collect biometric data of the world population

The introduction of digital identities was an objective even before the Corona crisis and was being promoted by influential players. With ‘ID2020’, the Rockefeller Foundation and Microsoft have been pursuing for several years now a project for the digital, biometric registration of the world’s population, with digital immunity certificates again described as a possible use for the system.17

A global vaccination campaign against coronavirus could soon be used as a pretext to roll out this control system, which has been prepared for years, worldwide – possibly in combination with the CommonPass mentioned earlier. It is important to realise that this means that the identity of every citizen (passwords, health status, bank data, social contacts etc.) will be centrally managed and transmitted to private corporations – a shocking, but unfortunately quite realistic idea. If you look at this and other projects of the digital corporations, you get the feeling that for these companies we human beings are more of a commodity or an economically exploitable raw material, and that our welfare matters very little to them. For example, Microsoft has patented a system whereby human bodies equipped with sensors can be used for the mining of crypto-currencies.18 Seen from this angle, the 2017 Facebook project on Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCI) is even more surreal. The US billionaire Elon Musk has already developed a robot which implants micro-electronic chips fully automatically in human brains.19 This hardly any longer falls in the category of medical applications, as even the developers no longer trouble to deny.

Are the corporations losing their grip?

I believe that we should immediately launch a broad debate on the ethical aspects of the above technologies. As with genetic cloning, we should also look at microchip implants in the brain to ask the question whether we really want to exploit all the technical possibilities available to us, or whether this form of transhumanism does not lead to dangerous dehumanisation. Is it really still ‘normal’, if mega-affluent people already announce today that they want to link people with an implanted chip into digital networks?20 For what reason does Microsoft want to register the biometric ID of the entire world population? Should we enable companies with such intentions actually to set up a global surveillance architecture ‘because of Corona’, allowing them to gain access to all areas of our lives? And why do the media not ask these questions, but promote all these projects quite uncritically?

Corona brings the ‘brave new world’ – if we do not rapidly become more critical

Influential players, including international foundations, are already openly calling for permanent total surveillance of the entire population – of course ‘only’ because of coronavirus.21 None of these aspects should be left out of account, when we consider the efforts of certain philanthropists in this crisis. In any case, we should be more critical of investors who purchase our consent with strategically placed philanthropy, and who in spite of (or because of?) their supposedly selfless donations are becoming increasingly wealthy and influential.

The cumbersome and partially unfulfillable Corona requirements (e.g. contact diaries, guest lists, contact tracing by the authorities etc.) could encourage many people to accept digital surveillance systems as a convenient solution for everyday life. Should digital companies, the media and government see this Chinese path as key for a return to (new) normality, it should be clear to everyone what they are really aiming for.

In addition to the surveillance aspect, it should be noted that the digital industry has long been extending its business model, in the context of school digitisation, to the education sector as well, and Corona provides a welcome excuse for this. I appeal to all parents and teachers not to be uncritical of these attempts.

These companies are not our friends and do not have the best interests of children, or the safeguarding of individual freedom in mind. First and foremost they want to create dependencies and make their technologies indispensable in all sectors of society. They are increasingly expanding into all areas of our lives, without our ever having really been made aware of it. The digitisation of government, payment transactions, schools, the economy, the media, communication and ultimately the whole of society is driven and financed worldwide by a very small number of large corporations. Are we going to stand by and let these dependencies develop, as the Corona crisis leads to their being further expanded and permanently established?

How much surveillance and control can a free society cope with?

III. The financial sector, and in particular the large international and investment banks

…are instrumentalising the crisis to create new dependencies through extensive lending to governments and companies, and thus extend their political influence. This is done either directly through banks or indirectly through organisations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. The acute need for capital as a result of the crisis thus makes states liable to be influenced by private donors. Because of this balance of power, any democratic control becomes impossible and the private banking sector is becoming a major political player.

This approach is particularly questionable, because the billion-dollar loans are essentially not intended to support the population or the real economy, but (by analogy with previous ‘bank rescues’) mainly redound to the benefit of the creditors. The money borrowed is therefore only used to a limited extent by politicians in support of the economy, but rather saves the financial sector from losses due to the crisis. This redistribution is paid for by low and middle-income earners, because the enormous new debt is likely to give rise to massive tax increases and capital levies, at the latest after the coming federal elections. At the same time, the loans enable the big banks to exert political influence. Due to these mechanisms, they have an interest in ensuring that the economic crisis resulting from Corona shall be as devastating as possible, however absurd this may at first appear. For this purpose they use the the channels open to them in the media to spread more fear and further exacerbate the economic situation. In addition, through institutions such as the IMF or the World Bank, they are promoting a shift of power in favour of supranational organisations, because this progressively increases their influence on global fiscal policy.

Major banks and the IMF have a big influence on the global response to the corona crisis

The financial sector is already a major player in foreign policy and in the global response to the corona pandemic. For example, when the ‘Event 201’ simulation was conducted in October 2019 by the World Economic Forum and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, participants with links to the World Bank were also present to discuss fiscal responses to a future coronavirus pandemic.22

The corona pandemic simulated for this purpose actually occurred two months later, and the measures developed in the context of the simulation have been implemented since then. This can be seen in the most recent events in Belarus. The IMF, as the long arm of the banking sector, offered the economically stricken state 940 million in June 2020, demanding in return that the small country institute Corona measures such as lockdown, compulsory masking and quarantine.23 The background to these demands was that Belarus, with its restrained approach to coronavirus, had disrupted the desired narrative of the deadly pandemic. Looking at the long list of 102 states that have requested IMF loans in the context of the Corona crisis, a similar IMF approach in these countries is quite conceivable. The IMF itself states that it makes lending conditional on ‘appropriate Corona measures’ by the recipient countries.24 Anyone who wonders why so many countries worldwide have adopted almost identical measures may find an answer here. Belarus rejected the interference of the IMF, and we are currently observing the consequences. That the EU, given the current rate of exchange with Belarus, is not really concerned about the conduct of the possibly rigged elections, is shown from the fact that the OSCE initially turned down the country’s invitation to observe these elections locally with a meagre excuse.25

Corona helps banks achieve their goal of abolishing cash worldwide

In addition to the political aspects, the financial sector is abusing the crisis to continue to push ahead with the drive to global cash abolition. Unfortunately, many people are not aware of the impact of the switch to digital currencies and the enormous potential for abuse associated with this. At this point, I would urge everyone to consider the real consequences of a cashless society and in particular to reflect on the control that the operators of a global digital payment infrastructure would have over the entire population. It should also be recognised that if cash were abolished these companies would make money from every payment transaction worldwide without exception, which I for one would have no wish to see happening.

Influential forces, which even before Corona were already intensively lobbying for global cash abolition, are now exploiting the crisis to achieve their goals. Let us just mention in passing that Microsoft founder Bill Gates is also involved in the project.26 In view of the enormous economic potential in this sector, it is in any case unlikely that such players in this sector will ultimately be concerned with anything other than money and political influence, even if they conceal their aims behind high-profile ‘fund-raising campaigns’. So when we are told that because of Corona we should give up using cash, we should not ignore the strong economic interests behind it. In this context, it is worth mentioning that the UN is also using its name to promote this global campaign by the banking sector.27

The financial sector installs its people at the top and we do nothing about it

Overall, my observations in the Bundestag lead me to the conclusion that the financial sector is influencing politics with an astonishing degree of self-assurance, and is now even able to position its own staff in the highest political offices without provoking any kind of public protest. If Goldman Sachs managers or IMF chairmen can become President of the European Central Bank, the EU seems have lost any connection with the needs and interests of the population. And if BlackRock representatives in Germany are touted as candidates for Chancellor, we appear to be too little informed about the intentions and methods of the financial sector, and so must be lacking a critical faculty. But we need be critical, if on the one hand the assets of billionaires go on steadily increasing while at the same time more and more people are living in poverty in our country. This development is no coincidence – it is just the result of decades of policy in favour of the richest 0.01 percent. In the year 2010, when the Süddeutsche Zeitung was still critically reporting on the influence of the financial sector, former editor-in-chief Heribert Prantl wrote about these issues:

But we also need to talk about how we can bring it about that Europe should not just be dictated to by money and the financial markets – we need to restore power to the people’s representatives and the governments the people have elected.28

A vivid example of this influence of the financial sector on representatives of our federal government is the current CumEx scandal at the Warburg bank, where tax money to the tune of thousands of millions disappeared. Our own Federal Minister of Finance (then Mayor of Hamburg) ‘overlooked’ this theft, later thwarted the recovery of the funds, lied to the Finance Committee of the German Bundestag on the number of discussions he had had with Warburg representatives and says now, as the accusations can no longer be denied, that he cannot any longer recall what was discussed at these meetings.29 It is people like this, dear reader, who hold the most important positions in our federal government and decide how wealth in Germany is to be distributed. The Warburg case provides a unique opportunity for the whole population to study the collusion between top-level politics and the financial sector. Although the affair itself is by no means an isolated case, it is only very rarely that the details of such conspiracies come to light. So I hope that the opportunity does not just pass us by, and citizens do not yet again let themselves be fobbed off by dramatic appeals by political functionaries or mitigating media reports.

IV. With their misleading reporting

…their encouragement of division and polarisation and the calculated fomentation of anxiety, the mainstream media are driving a deliberate wedge into our society.

Fear, in particular, is a handy tool for pressuring all of us to take measures that under normal circumstances we would never accept. Depending on the objective in view, the media variously disseminate fear of terrorism, of climate change or (as currently the case) of the pandemic. In this way they achieve social support for changes that are actually directed against the interests of the population. Their manipulative trick here is to play on our idealism and goodwill, e.g. our tendency to support environmental conservation or the health of our fellow human beings. The result of this influencing is always the same for the citizens concerned: a loss of freedom and prosperity and a further concentration of power in the hands of players who consistently elude our observation, and about whose objectives we are in no way informed. Occasionally it happens that prominent media representatives openly address these power relations in the media. Former Editor-in-Chief of the New York Times, John Swinton, said many years ago at a meeting of the most prestigious American journalists:

There is no such thing as an independent press in America, except in remote small towns in country districts. You are all slaves. You know it and I know it. Not one of you dares to express an honest opinion. If you were to express it, you would already know in advance that it would never appear in print. […] If I were to allow honest opinions to be printed in one issue of my newspaper, I would be like Othello before 24 hours had elapsed – my occupation would be gone. Anyone crazy enough to write his honest opinion would be out on the streets looking for a new job. The business of journalists in New York is to twist the truth, to lie bluntly, to pervert, to revile, to kowtow at the feet of big business (‘Mammon’ in the original) and to sell his own country and people for his daily bread, or, which is the same thing, for his salary. You know it and I know it; what garbage it is, proposing a toast to the ‘independence of the press’! We are tools and servants of the rich men behind the scenes. We are their jumping jacks. They pull the strings and we dance. Our time, our skills, our lives, our possibilities are all owned by other people. We are intellectual prostitutes.30

I am afraid that in this area nothing at all has changed. On the contrary, by this time even smaller regional media can hardly take up a neutral position, because they derive the greater part of their news from a few central press agencies, and when it comes to issues beyond the immediate region no longer do their own research. So today it is that much easier to keep disquieting opinions out of the media. The private and public media, as well as the social networks, thus ensure that people are distracted from the crucial background to important happenings and accept the official narrative they are expected to swallow. In parallel to this society is forced, obviously with the aim of distraction, to engage in unnecessary debates on completely irrelevant issues. Anyone who has taken a closer look at these scientifically developed methods of manipulating opinion will realise that the approach is systematic and is by no means just being applied by chance.31

The pictures from Bergamo: 70% of the undertakers in the region were obliged to isolate, so they asked the military for a one-off transport of 60 coffins.

How were the ‘Pictures from Bergamo’ created?

The media also make use of the power of images and use them in a targeted way. They shock us with photographs of alleged Corona mass graves in the USA, while concealing the fact that deceased homeless people have been buried in these communal burial grounds for many years (and video recordings to that effect were being made back in 2016).32 They show us dramatic images of military trucks transporting coffins from Bergamo in northern Italy and at the same time suppress the important information that, according to the Italian Funeral Industry Federation, at the start of the corona crisis 70 per cent of undertakers in the region stopped working for reasons of quarantine, and it was only because of this that the military was called in for a one-off transport of 60 coffins.33 The media groups and public service broadcasters rely on the fact that we citizens do not have the time for background research, and will therefore be forced to trust their reports. But why is their reporting so very selective? And do we not make it far too easy for the media to influence our opinion?

Even Wikipedia is no longer neutral

Even Wikipedia, with its enormous reach and acceptance among the population, has for some time now been selling itself to lucrative PR campaigns by large corporations and wealthy individuals.34 At the same time, it is increasingly becoming a digital pillory for people outside the mainstream. For example, Wikipedia has systematically blackened the reputation of numerous renowned scientists, such as Nobel Prize winner Luc Montagnier, although they were among the most respected in their field even before Corona. This approach is particularly underhand because it is impossible to defend oneself against this form of public defamation, and the internal Wikipedia regime prevents any correction. Another cause for concern is the current trend whereby uncomfortable facts about coronavirus are brusquely denied on the basis of so-called ‘fact checks’, and unpopular views subjected to denigration.

Corona narrative is impressed on children with computer games

Public service broadcasters are also participating in current Corona propaganda, and do not hold back, in this context, from deliberately influencing children. For example, ARD and ZDF are developing a contribution-financed Corona computer game for young people, in which players have to give a wide berth to ‘highly infectious infants’ and ‘conspiracy theorists’.35 I leave it to my readers to decide whether such public relations work, paid for by subscribers, can be seen as a serious response to the pandemic.

Dear Readers,
you probably have little time to check the background to all these statements for yourselves with a view to forming your own opinion about it. Governments around the world have long been trying, in close cooperation with the media and the digital economy, to deprive you of this opportunity by means of censorship.36 This is supposedly justified by allegedly dangerous ‘conspiracy theories’, but the aim envisaged is in no way the protection of the population against false reports, but the repression of uncomfortable facts and opinions. Already now, especially on the major online platforms, content is being arbitrarily deleted, this always being justified as ‘protection against disinformation’. But when we allow alternative views to be censored on spurious grounds, not only do we renounce our fundamental rights of freedom of expression and freedom of the press, at the same time we accept a total dependence on the media, the digital companies and the statements of politicians. The nervous response of our government to any criticism of its Corona measures shows that it has reason at present to be seriously concerned about who controls people’s opinions. When critical voices are widely defamed in the media, while hardly being allowed a say in the matter, this again points to their fear that public opinion could escape their control. But if we now grant the Government the right to empower itself, or its authorised institutions, to act as a kind of ‘Ministry of Truth’, how can this be compatible with our claim to be an open and liberal society?

Democracy is undermined by lobbying and the suppression of uncomfortable opinions

I am afraid, in view of all these machinations, we must draw a very uncomfortable conclusion. We must seriously consider the possibility that on many important issues we are being deliberately and intentionally deceived, and that not only the media, but also our political leaders are doing this, to our general detriment. Anyone who has ever experienced the repulsive moral cowardice that predominates in the Bundestag and in our ministries can no longer have any illusions about the integrity of our Government. The Bundestag is a self-regulating system in which everyone is subject to pressures which leave just a narrow corridor of tolerated opinions. This applies in particular when it comes to the influence of the mega corporations and major banks – these interrelationships are largely taboo, and are also hushed up in non-public committee meetings, even though most major policy decisions are linked to them. If anyone at this point suggests that my statements bring democracy into disrepute, they haven’t thought very hard about it. On the contrary, I want democracy to be restored in the interest of us ordinary citizens. Because once you have been able to witness with what arrogant certainty billionaires influence political decision-making, democracy is the last word that is likely to come to mind.

Church representatives issue warning

Even high-ranking Church representatives have recognised the seriousness of the situation and are warning us about the intentions of financially strong players in this crisis. They remind us that Corona is like a fire accelerant for their efforts, and the ensuing centralisation of political and economic power will soon escape all democratic control. They also point to the dangers of digital surveillance for the individual freedom of each person. It speaks volumes about the intentions of the media that they dismiss this sincere warning from the Church hierarchy as a malicious ‘conspiracy theory’. I fully endorse the call of the bishops and cardinals at this point, and at the same time thank them for having the courage to stand up against the broad front made up of the media, governments and large parts of their own Church, with their well-considered warning.

State of emergency and ‘New Normal’ are being vigorously enforced worldwide

We should become suspicious, if we are now being forced to accept considerable restrictions and permanent changes to our lives. Under no circumstances should we yield to the conspicuously slanted message of politics and the media, according to which we must permanently write off our old life and there is no alternative to the ‘new normal’. Because there is always an alternative. And if the Robert Koch Institute and Professor Christian Drosten are already suggesting that the current state of emergency, including the obligation to wear masks, needs to be extended indefinitely, something is getting seriously out of hand.37, 38

So we are supposed to believe that the state of emergency is to become a permanent state of affairs, worldwide. It is only to be expected that practically all the world’s mainstream media, along with the most influential international organisations such as the UN, WHO, IMF, the World Economic Forum and the World Bank, should be emphatically forcing this message of the ‘new normal’ down people’s throats worldwide.39 But will they succeed? And what does that actually do for children, if they are to live under such circumstances for years at the most important stage of their development?

People are mature enough to take responsibility for themselves

We all have a right gradually to reclaim a degree of personal responsibility. I would therefore argue that we should deal with the realities of the current situation on our own responsibility and without state coercion. According to all known studies, distance is the most effective protection against an infection, and it is reasonable for any responsible citizen to act on this knowledge if appropriate. But we should defend ourselves when disproportionate measures are forced on us.

Does the corona crisis really justify isolating old and sick residents of nursing homes without their consent, separating children from their parents for forced quarantine (as proposed by health authorities in several federal states) or locking up citizens with a positive PCR test against their will in police-guarded facilities (as recently happened in Munich)? And when it comes to equipping people with micro-electronic distance sensors (so-called ‘Corona bracelets’), is this not a deeply degrading, totalitarian measure and, given the situation, completely overdone? The managing director of a a company making these distance sensors recently suggested, in a radio interview, that it would be a good thing if the entire population were so equipped.40 I hope that I am not alone my opinion when I say that this proposal is altogether perverse and the product of a sick mind.

No benefits from everyday mask-wearing have been proven

Equally questionable is the obligation to wear a mask in public, especially without standardisation of the material used for this purpose. The Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices, as the competent higher federal authority, states that for non-medical masks no protective effect has been demonstrated, either for wearers themselves or for others.41 It is characteristic that the authority then goes on, in spite of the state of current scientific data, to insinuate a pseudo-protective effect on the basis of vague formulations, even though such an effect has been shown to be non-existent just a few sentences earlier.

Contrary to the assertions of various politicians, there is still no scientific proof that it makes sense to mandate the wearing of masks for the general population in public places. Medical (!) masks only have a proven beneficial effect in the case of close, continuous contact in closed rooms. The evidence suggests that the misuse of masks, currently to be observed in large numbers of the population, actually increases the risk of infection.42 This is because hardly anyone adheres to the stipulation that the outside of the mask must never be touched, that the mask must be changed after four hours, hands should be washed before and after each use, and masks should not be used repeatedly but must be washed in hot water each time they are used.

Political decision-makers should be clear that such requirements cannot possibly be met in everyday life, and it is therefore highly probable that the damage caused by the masks outweighs the benefit, not to mention the devastating effects on social life. I therefore concur with Professor Christian Drosten, who emphasised the ineffectiveness of masks back in January 2020.43

In this context, I would like to remind you of the statements made by the Federal Chancellor and the Bavarian Prime Minister, according to which everyday masks become dangerous ‘virus breeders’ so the obligation to wear a mask must be rejected. The Vice-President of the Robert Koch Institute, Professor Lars Schaade, also commented on 28.02.2020 on the use of masks in the Corona pandemic:

Well, masks…this has been looked into several times. There is simply no scientific evidence that masks make any kind of sense.44

This statement is also supported by the official figures of the RKI itself, because the introduction of compulsory mask-wearing at the end of April had no positive effect at all on the R-value and the already declining infection figures.45 Currently, the figures are rising in despite of the compulsory wearing of masks in public places. The Bavarian Ministry of Health itself provided a plausible explanation for this, for it stated on its influenza information page (until early October 2020):

The risk of infection can be reduced by a tight-fitting mouth and nose guard (as used in surgery and intensive care). Single layer masks are however ineffective. The general wearing of breathing masks or mouth and nose guards by the general population during an influenza pandemic is unlikely to lead to any significant reduction in the transmission of influenza viruses and is therefore not recommended. Every contact person could be a source of infection. Family members, especially children, and friends are a much more likely source of infection, because of the closer contact involved, than random persons you fleetingly pass on the underground. It follows that the mouth and nose protector should be worn constantly, including at home, to be effective; but this is hardly practical.46

Ministry of Health contradicts itself on everyday mask wearing

So for years, the ministry stated on its influenza page that because of the possibility of infection in the domestic environment, mandatory mask-wearing was pointless. On the coronavirus page, however, the mask is praised as a lifesaver, although here too most infections (after nursing homes) tend to occur at home.47 In the meantime this nonsensical statement has been quietly reworded, because with corona viruses everything is suddenly ‘different’ and masks must now even be worn in the open air.

However this may be, I have no doubt that such measures systematically weaken the physical and mental defences of the population. In this context, it should be mentioned that the German Bundestag warned all members of parliament and parliamentary employees in an internal memo of the danger represented by the significant accumulation of CO2 in the blood during prolonged mask-wearing.48 However, citizens were denied this important information, and the facts about CO2 rebreathing were even denied subsequently by pseudo-scientific ‘fact-checks’.49 The general obligation to wear a mask is therefore a purely psychological tool on the part of governments, and in view of the self-contamination it entails can even be potentially hazardous to health – the aim here being to keep the population in fear, by forcibly reiterating the official narrative of an omnipresent danger.

This approach is in keeping with the strategy of the Federal Ministry of the Interior for Corona crisis communication management, according to which ‘the primeval human fear of suffocation’ should be systematically exploited to achieve the ‘desired shock effect’ in the population.50 I leave it to my readers to decide what view to take of this deliberate inculcation of terror by our federal government. It should not go unmentioned at this point that this ‘desired shock effect’ is highly likely to traumatise young children in particular, and to make them afraid of other people for the rest of their lives. We can already observe how many citizens, as a result of their fear of the virus, have developed a completely disturbed pattern of social behaviour and now perceive their fellow human beings only as a threat. Anyone who has read this strategy paper of the Ministry of the Interior, with its complete lack of empathy, knows the people who are responsible for this fearful social damage.

Is it justifiable, in the light of scientific data, to make children wear masks for long periods of time and in the open air?

Proof of immunity means compulsory vaccination by indirect means

Our fundamental rights, and our unconditional and unlimited access to public life, are non-negotiable. In this context, indirect compulsory vaccination, such as the so-called immunity pass would entail (in connection with a scarcely tested, probably genetically engineered vaccine), must be firmly rejected. As compared with the potential danger of coronavirus, the risks involved here would appear to be incalculable. As a grim reminder of this, we need only refer back to the hasty introduction of vaccines against swine flu, which caused tragic vaccination damage, particularly to children.51 It should also be noted that in the course of the EU-mandated pharmaceutical company’s testing of the Corona vaccine, one volunteer suffered severe side effects in the form of an inflammation of the spinal cord.52 It is not without reason that the development of a safe vaccine takes up to 20 years.53 Those who want to be vaccinated should accordingly sign up on a voluntary basis. But the Corona crisis must not lead to a situation where our everyday life and our social interaction are dehumanised through permanent coercion, because I have no doubt that a breakdown of society would be the result. We must therefore watch closely to see whether the federal government (or the EU) will at a later stage again try to make our return to normality dependent on conditions such as proof of immunity or the like. This would be going way beyond their remit.

Not trivialising the virus, but not ignoring new findings

Corona is not a completely harmless virus. However, in the meantime we have a new level of knowledge which we must also now take into account. In addition, it must be clarified immediately to what extent treatment errors in medication and ventilation of Covid patients contributed to premature deaths.5455 We should therefore not prematurely allow the tragic events in some regions of the world to be the yardstick for our further handling of the problem.

The latest antibody studies in particular show that significantly more people have already had the virus than was initially assumed.56 The values published so far regarding the case fatality rate are accordingly no longer tenable. So we need to find new ways of dealing with the virus, ones that do less harm to society. Above all, we should favour a return to greater personal responsibility, because state intervention in the private sector will in the long run be a threat to social peace. And when the Federal Chancellor literally says that it is necessary to ‘tighten the reins’ on the population, it seems someone has forgotten who actually is (or should be) sovereign in a democracy.

Devastating collateral damage and human suffering in developing countries

There is some evidence that the measures taken are having increasingly unmanageable effects. Federal Development Minister Müller (CSU) recently stated that the coronavirus measures will result in far more deaths than those caused by the virus itself.57 In particular in developing countries, as a result of the lockdowns, the supply chains for key medicines, e.g. for tuberculosis, HIV and malaria, are in a state of partial collapse. In African countries, we can therefore expect the continuation of these measures to result in several million excess deaths.58, 59, 60 To protect ourselves, we are thus turning a blind eye to significantly more victims in other countries. It is probable too that there will be a time lag between the measures and the devastating impact on global food supplies, and that the shortages will particularly affect the poorest.

Development Minister Gerd Müller warns that far more people are dying from the lockdowns than from the virus itself. This is particularly true of developing countries.

The cure should not be worse than the disease – and Corona is no exception

In Germany, well over one million operations were postponed because of coronavirus, including 50,000 urgent operations for cancer. Estimates suggest that the absence of treatment could cause between 5,000 and 125,000 people to lose their lives. In addition, countless other people die because they are no longer receiving treatment for fear of the virus, even when their lives are at risk.61 So is the government really concerned about saving lives? In any case, I would like to express my agreement with a concerned employee of the Ministry of the Interior, who presented a detailed report on the subject in early May about the human suffering resulting from the corona measures, and was coldly sacked by the government for his pains. We have long since reached the point where the damage of these measures exceeds the benefits. In view of the data now available, we must therefore try to find a restrained approach to the pandemic – because the virus is here to stay, after all, and we cannot sacrifice on its altar our entire social coexistence, our culture, the development and education of our children, the economy, our spiritual integrity and ultimately our freedom.

This statement seems apposite today, for it has already been announced that current measures should be continued even after the introduction of a vaccine. Moreover, we have to accept the fact that there just are incalculable risks in life, and this brings me to the most important statement in my report:

We should all assess the situation objectively and rationally, even if another ‘Corona wave’ leads to more fatalities or if we are confronted with a completely novel virus, which is a definite possibility.62 If this does indeed occur, it is likely that an attempt will be made to implement all the above measures within the shortest possible time. I can only urge most strongly that this should not be allowed to happen.

Even with possible excess mortality, advice based on fear is dubious

I cannot prove it, but I think it is conceivable that in the further course of the pandemic Germany will experience excess mortality. This because the omnipresent fear of the virus, the psychological consequences of social isolation and also the physical effects of the current measures (masks, excessive and unhealthy hygiene, lack of exercise) have considerably weakened the immune system of many people. However, I would urge my fellow citizens, even in case of higher fatalities, not rashly to accept measures that would later result in extremely violent repercussions to the detriment of their own best interests. The machinations I have described in this report are and will remain a real threat to the freedom of all of us, to our social and economic well-being. And if you think about it, you cannot avoid coming to the disconcerting conclusion that a high level of anxiety in the population, and the worst kind of economic devastation, would play into the hands of these sinister projects. I am aware how absurd this sounds, but my close examination of the situation makes such a conclusion inescapable. We should therefore, even in difficult and confusing times, keep a critical eye on those who see in every crisis a business model above all, and a favourable opportunity to expand their own power. We should also remember that fear is and always has been a bad basis for decisions.

Unfortunately, not everyone on this earth applies the same moral standards to their actions as we ordinary citizens try to do in our everyday lives. We must face up to this fact, even if it is difficult. Because if we are to recognise who is instrumentalising this crisis for their own purposes, we cannot spare ourselves this logical step.

The purpose of my report was to highlight the alien purposes for which our concerns about coronavirus are being abused. Furthermore, I wanted to bring it about that people in our country can have a public debate on these issues, because the media and politicians have so far used every possible means to prevent it. I hope that I will succeed in both, and that many readers will critically review my comments and concerns.

Finally, I would like to make an appeal to all soldiers and police officers in our country. Even before corona, governments all over the world had embarked on a new course from which they are unlikely to retreat. After many decades of great freedom and economic prosperity, the world is apparently once again moving towards authoritarian forms of government with mass surveillance, censorship and extensive control of the population. Many people have recognised these tendencies and rightly resist them. It is also very likely that in the coming months and years, more and more citizens will come to realise that their freedom and prosperity are under serious threat.

It is equally likely that this realisation will lead to widespread protests against government and the power of the global mega-corporations. If this should happen, I appeal to all soldiers and policemen not to forget to whose protection you have actually committed your services. Remember that a state that serves only the interests of a profit-oriented minority is also a threat to your freedom and that of your families. It is no coincidence that the concentration of wealth in the hands of the few is increasing unchecked, while at the same time leaving the general population with less and less and making them ever more dependent.

The media and politicians are already desperately trying to present protests against all these developments as coming from the extreme right. They do not even shy away from brazen misrepresentations, as their coverage of the protests against the corona measures impressively demonstrates. Should my report reach a wider audience, I too will certainly also be put in the corner of the right-wing extremists, conspiracy theorists or citizens nostalgic for the German Reich. This would not matter to me, because it is only a matter of time before citizens will see through this hateful propaganda against divergent opinions. In the end, the good will and genuine solidarity of the people will assert themselves. I have no doubt about that.

To conclude this report, I have two questions for my fellow human beings:

What Government measures would finally cause you personally to draw the line?

And what will you do if the ‘new normal’ of social distancing, masks and the de facto ban on culture remains, even after the introduction of a vaccine?

Further reading:

Prof. Dr. Rainer Mausfeld, Warum schweigen die Lämmer?

Dr. Sahra Wagenknecht, Couragiert gegen den Strom and Freiheit statt Kapitalismus

Prof. Dr. Klaus-Jürgen Bruder, Digitalisierung – Sirenengesänge oder Schlachtruf einer kannibalistischen Weltordnung

Paul Schreyer, Wer regiert das Geld and Chronik einer angekündigten Krise

Edward Bernays, Propaganda

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World Revisited

Publishing details:
Sebastian Friebel
Schellingstr. 109a,
80798 München,
GERMANY

Telegram:
t.me/Wiesollesweitergehen

Twitter:
@es_soll

1 www.weforum.org/great-reset; 2020

2 “Why we need international cooperation now more than ever”; www.weforum.org; 22.09.2020

3 “What COVID-19 could mean for international cooperation”; www.weforum.org; 17.06.2020

4 Barbara Adams, Jens Martens, The UN Foundation – A foundation for the UN?; 2018

5 The Great Reset: A Unique Twin Summit to Begin 2021; www.weforum.org; 2020

6 Die Pandemie ist eine große Chance [The pandemic is a great opportunity]; www.wolfgang-schaeuble.de; 21.08.2020

7 Sahra Wagenknecht, Couragiert gegen den Strom [Courageously against the current]; 2nd edition, p.156; Westend-Verlag [Westend publishers]; 2017

8 “How to Adapt to the Digital Age”; 17.06.2016

9 “Coronavirus: So funktioniert Chinas Farbcode-System” [Coronavirus: Here’s how China’s colour code system works]; www.rnd.de; 16.04.2020

10  “Formulierungshilfe für den Entwurf eines Zweiten Gesetzes zum Schutz der Bevölkerung bei einer epidemischen Lage von nationaler Tragweit” [Formulation aid for the draft of a second law for the protection of the population in the event of an epidemic situation of national scope]; www.bundesgesundheitsministerium.de; 29.04.2020

11 CommonPass; www.weforum.org; 2020

12 “The Commons Project Establishes Global Board of Trustees”; www.thecommonsproject.org; 08.07.2020

13 “Deutscher Ethikrat rät derzeit von Covid-19-Immunitätsbescheinigungen ab” [German Ethics Council currently advises against Covid-19 immunity certificates]; www.ethikrat.org; 22.09.2020

14 “Erkennungssoftware soll Maskenverweigerer identifizieren” [Recognition software to identify mask refusers]; www.rnd.de; 19.09.2020

15 “Corona-Maßnahmen: Snowden warnt vor ‘Architektur der Unterdrückung’”[Corona measures: Snowden warns against ‘architecture of oppression’]; www.heise.de; 11.04.2020

16 “Eckpunktepapier Konjunkturpaket” [Key issues paper on the economic stimulus package]; www.bundesfinanzministerium.de; 03.06.2020

17 www.id2020.org/alliance

18 Cryptocurrency System Using Body Activity Data; Patent WO/2020/060606 bzw. US16138518; 26.03.2020

19 “An integrated brain-machine interface platform with thousands of channels”; www.biorxiv.org; 02.08.2019

20 “Chip stellt Verbindung zwischen Gehirn und Smartphone her” [Chip creates connection between brain and smartphone]; www.tagesspiegel.de; 29.08.2020

21 “National Covid-19 Testing Action Plan”; www.rockefellerfoundation.org; 21.04.2020

22 www.centerforhealthsecurity.org/event201/; 2019

23 Lukashenko on imposition of additional conditions; www.deu.belta.by; 19.06.2020

24 The IMF’s Response to COVID-19; www.imf.org; 29.06.2020

25 “ODIHR will not deploy election observation mission to Belarus due to lack of invitation”; www.osce.org; 15.07.2020

26 www.betterthancash.org/members

27 www.betterthancash.org/members/page/8

28 “Geld regiert die Welt – wer regiert das Geld?” [Money rules the world – who rules the money?]; www.sueddeutsche.de; 20.05.2010

29 “Olaf Scholz mit Vorwürfen im Fall der Warburg-Bank konfrontiert” [Olaf Scholz faces accusations in Warburg Bank case]; www.bundestag.de; 09.09.2020

30 E.J. Schellhous, The new republic – founded on the natural and inalienable rights of man, p. 122; www.archive.org; 1883

31 Edward Bernays, Propaganda – Die Kunst der Public Relations [Propaganda – the art of public relations]; 1928; first German edition 2019

32 “The Potter´s Field”; www.youtube.com; 2016

33 “Coronavirus, Federazione Onoranze Funebri” [Italian Undertakers Federation]; www.adnkronos.com; 24.03.2020

34 Helen Buyniski, Wikipedia: “Ein Sumpf aus üblen Machenschaften” [Wikipedia: A swamp of evil machinations]; 2018

35 www.playcoronaworld.com; 2020

36 “Innenminister wollen gegen Verschwörungstheorien vorgehen” [Home ministers aim to take action against conspiracy theories]; www.mdr.de; 09.05.2020

37 Christian Drosten: “Wir haben es selbst in der Hand” [It’s in our hands]; www.zeit.de; 06.10.2020

38 “Die Pandemie in Deutschland in den nächsten Monaten” [The pandemic in Germany in coming months]; www.rki.de; 13.10.2020

39 13.10.2020

39 “Invasion of the New Normals”; www.consentfactory.org; 09.08.2020

40 “Firmenportrait: Kinexon – Abstandshalter für den US-Sport” [Company portrait: Kinexon – distance sensor for US sport]; www.deutschlandfunk.de; from minute 05:06; 28.08.2020

41 BfArM information on the use of mouth and nose coverings; www.bfarm.de; 26.06.2020

42 “Mund-Nasen-Schutz in der Öffentlichkeit: Keine Hinweise für eine Wirksamkeit” [Mouth-nose guards in public spaces: no indication that they are effective]; www.thieme-connect.com; 18.08.2020

43 RBB interview mit Professor Christian Drosten; www.youtube.com; from minute 25:58; 30.01.2020

44 Daily press briefing by the Robert Koch Institute on COVID-19 in Germany; www.youtube.com; 28.02.2020

45 Table with Nowcasting figures for R-number estimates; www.rki.de; 12.10.2020

46 “Grippe (Influenza) – Häufig gestellte Fragen” [Flu – FAQs]; www.stmgp.bayern.de; 2020

47 Epidemiologisches Bulletin [Epidemiological Bulletin] 38/2020; www.rki.de; 17.09.2020

48 House communication 222/2020; German Bundestag; 28.08.2020

49 “Nein, beim Tragen eines Mundschutzes atmet man nicht zu viel CO2 ein” [No, wearing a mouth guard does not mean that you inhale too much CO2]; www.correctiv.org; 24.04.2020

50 Strategy paper ‘Wie wir COVID19 unter Kontrolle bekommen’ [‘How we can get COVID19 under control’]; www.bmi.bund.de; 28.04.2020

51 Grippeimpfung: Wie Pandemrix eine Narkolepsie auslöst [Flu vaccination: how Pandemrix causes narcolepsy]; www.aerzteblatt.de; 02.07.2015

52 AstraZeneca stoppt Covid-19-Impfstoff [AstraZeneca stops Covid-19 vaccine]; www.focus.de; 09.09.2020

53 Development of vaccines – see www.aerztezeitung.at; 15.12.2017

54 “COVID-19: Kleinere Studie mit Chloroquin wegen Komplikationen abgebrochen” [COVID-19: Small-scale study with chloroquine discontinued due to complications]; www.aerzteblatt.de; 14.04.2020

55 “Invasive and non-invasive ventilation of COVID-19 patients” – see www.aerzteblatt.de; 03.08.2020

56 Ischgl study: 42.4% are antibody-positive; www.i-med.ac.at; 25.06.2020

57 “Entwicklungsminister: An Lockdown-Folgen sterben mehr Menschen als am Virus” [Development minister states more peple will die because of lockdown impact than through the virus]; www.reuters.com; 23.09.2020

58 “The potential impact of health service disruptions on the burden of malaria”; www.who.int; 23.04.2020

59 COVID-19-related service disruptions could cause hundreds of thousands of extra deaths from HIV, www.who.int; 11.05.2020

60 “Majority of HIV, TB and Malaria Programs Face Disruptions as a Result of COVID-19”; www.theglobalfund.org; 17.06.2020

61 Coronakrise 2020 aus Sicht des Schutzes Kritischer Infrastrukturen [Coronacrisis 2020 from the point of view of the protection of critical infrastructures]; report KM 4 of the BMI; 08.05.2020

62 A Special Edition of Path Forward with Bill and Melinda Gates; minute 06:30 to 06:59; 23.06.2020

Ivermectin: Cheap Covid Treatment Shown to be Highly Effective in New Peer-Reviewed Study

A new peer-reviewed study by Dr Pierre Kory and colleagues on Ivermectin has been published in the American Journal of Therapeutics. Entitled “Review of the Emerging Evidence Demonstrating the Efficacy of Ivermectin in the Prophylaxis and Treatment of COVID-19“, it provides a new authoritative overview of the evidence to date and calls for the widely available drug to be “globally and systematically deployed in the prevention and treatment of COVID-19”.

The study summarises the impressive evidence base for the use of Ivermectin.

1. Since 2012, multiple in vitro studies have demonstrated that Ivermectin inhibits the replication of many viruses, including influenza, Zika, Dengue, and others.
2. Ivermectin inhibits SARS-CoV-2 replication and binding to host tissue through several observed and proposed mechanisms.
3. Ivermectin has potent anti-inflammatory properties with in vitro data demonstrating profound inhibition of both cytokine production and transcription of nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB), the most potent mediator of inflammation.
4. Ivermectin significantly diminishes viral load and protects against organ damage in multiple animal models when infected with SARS-CoV-2 or similar coronaviruses.
5. Ivermectin prevents transmission and development of COVID-19 disease in those exposed to infected patients.
6. Ivermectin hastens recovery and prevents deterioration in patients with mild to moderate disease treated early after symptoms.
7. Ivermectin hastens recovery and avoidance of ICU admission and death in hospitalised patients.
8. Ivermectin reduces mortality in critically ill patients with COVID-19.
9. Ivermectin leads to temporally associated reductions in case fatality rates in regions after ivermectin distribution campaigns.
10. The safety, availability, and cost of ivermectin are nearly unparalleled given its low incidence of important drug interactions along with only mild and rare side effects observed in almost 40 years of use and billions of doses administered.
11. The World Health Organisation has long included ivermectin on its “List of Essential Medicines.”

The quality of the evidence for Ivermectin has been challenged, leading many countries including the U.K. and U.S. not to recommend its use for COVID-19. The study takes this criticism head-on.

Although a subset of trials are of an observational design, it must be recognised that in the case of ivermectin (1) half of the trials used a randomised controlled trial design (12 of the 24 reviewed above) and (2) observational and randomised trial designs reach equivalent conclusions on average as reported in a large Cochrane review of the topic from 2014. In particular, OCTs that use propensity-matching techniques (as in the Rajter study from Florida) find near identical conclusions to later-conducted RCTs in many different disease states, including coronary syndromes, critical illness, and surgery. Similarly, as evidenced in the prophylaxis and treatment trial meta-analyses as well as the summary trials table, the entirety of the benefits found in both OCT and RCT trial designs aligns in both direction and magnitude of benefit. Such a consistency of benefit among numerous trials of varying sizes designs from multiple different countries and centres around the world is unique and provides strong, additional support.

A hint of the politics around Ivermectin can be gleaned in the discussion section, where the authors wonder how much more evidence a cheap, safe drug like Ivermectin needs in an international emergency before it can be approved.

The continued challenges faced by health care providers in deciding on appropriate therapeutic interventions in patients with COVID-19 would be greatly eased if more updated and commensurate evidence-based guidance came from the leading governmental health care agencies. Currently, in the United States, the treatment guidelines for COVID-19 are issued by the National Institutes of Health. Their most recent recommendation on the use of ivermectin in patients with COVID-19 was last updated on February 11th, 2021, where they found that “there was insufficient evidence to recommend for or against ivermectin in COVID-19”. For a more definitive recommendation to be issued by major leading public health agencies (PHA), it is apparent that even more data on both the quality and quantity of trials are needed, even during a global health care emergency, and in consideration of a safe, oral, low-cost, widely available and deployable intervention such as ivermectin.

Latest News

Sweden’s Per Capita Deaths in Line with the European Average in 2020

Will Jones has taken another look at the situation in Sweden. He finds that the country does indeed show that lockdowns aren’t needed.

Severe restrictions on civic and economic life are the only thing standing between us and the virus spiralling out of control and killing many times more people than at present. That is the foundational belief of lockdownism. Unfortunately, it is defeated by the example of any country or state that does not impose such restrictions and does not experience such an outcome. A number of states in America fit this description this winter, such as Florida, Texas, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Sweden is the main example in Europe. It is also a good comparison for the UK as it is similarly urbanised (actually slightly more, 87.7% vs 83.4%) and the capital Stockholm has a similar population density to London.

In the spring Sweden imposed only light restrictions, including a limit of 50 on public gatherings, but did not at any point close businesses or most schools or require people to stay at home. This light-touch approach has largely continued, although the country has come under huge pressure to impose more restrictive measures.

In the midst of a winter surge, Sweden finally passed a law that came into effect on January 10th adding some new restrictions on gathering sizes and venue capacity and enabling the Government to close businesses, though it has not yet done so. Reuters reported:

Sweden tightened social distancing rules for shopping centres, gyms and private gatherings on Friday and said it was ready to close businesses if needed, but stopped short of a lockdown to fight the spread of the pandemic.

Earlier in the day, parliament voted the Government wider powers to close businesses and limit the size of public and private gatherings as an addition to what have so-far been mostly voluntary measures to ensure social distancing.

“Today, the Government has not decided on the closure of businesses, but the Government is ready to make that kind of decision as well,” Prime Minister Stefan Lofven told a news conference. “This is not something that we take lightly, but people’s lives and health are at stake.”

From Sunday [January 10th], gyms, sports centres, shopping malls and public pools will have to set a maximum number of visitors based on their size.

In addition, private gatherings will also be limited to eight people, a rule which until now has only affected public events.

A Lockdown Sceptics reader whose family lives in Sweden sent us an update on the current rules.

  • We can visit family and friends – max eight people inside or out
  • Social distancing – one person per 10 square metres in shops etc.
  • Bars and cafes are open but can not serve alcohol after eight o’clock, max four people to a table
  • Restaurants open – table service only and max four people to a table
  • All shops and businesses open but must be Covid safe
  • Hairdressers and beauty parlours open but must be Covid safe
  • Nurseries and primary schools (under 13) open
  • Lower secondary schools mostly open but decision up to the school board
  • Schools over 16 years mostly closed but may take decision to open from January 25th
  • Universities closed
  • Theme parks closed
  • Gyms mainly open but must be Covid safe
  • Public swimming pools and theatres closed
  • Museums and cinemas – some open, some not. Must adhere to Covid restrictions
  • All other businesses open
  • Advice is to avoid unnecessary shopping/travel and so on
  • No requirement to wear a mask/face covering. However, it is advised on public transport during peak times and should be more substantial than a face covering

Despite these much lighter restrictions than in the UK and many other countries, Sweden has had a death toll broadly in line with other countries that locked down hard. Indeed, a study from researchers at the University of Oslo concluded that between July 2019 and July 2020 Sweden had almost no excess deaths at all.

The winter surge is currently in decline in Sweden, and was in decline prior to the new restrictions coming into effect on January 10th. ICU admissions have been declining sharply across the country since the week beginning January 4th, and in Stockholm, which was hit hard in spring, ICU admissions stopped rising at the beginning of December and have declined since (see below).

Source: Swedish Government

Overall excess deaths in the country have been running quite high since mid-November but are now, like ICU admissions, in decline (see below). A recent, very thorough blog post found that if you add Sweden’s all-cause mortality in 2019 and 2020 together (2019 had below-average mortality), it was about the same as the cumulative total for 2017 and 2018.

Sweden didn’t do nothing. But it did a lot less than many other countries including the UK, and without seeing the huge death tolls predicted by those who tell us lockdowns are the only way to “control” the virus. There are places which did even less than Sweden, and their examples should also be studied for the lessons they teach us. But Sweden continues to expose the central myth of the lockdowners – that without severe restrictions things would be far worse than they are now, and so all the collateral damage must be worth it.

Stop Press: Philippe Lemoine, a PhD student at Cornell, has produced a great Twitter thread about Sweden and the unavoidable conclusion that lockdowns don’t have much impact on reducing Covid mortality.

https://twitter.com/phl43/status/1353091523836076032?s=21

Ivermectin: Miracle Cure or Snake Oil?

Shutterstock/File Photo

City AM reports that Oxford University is to investigate the potential of the antiparasitic drug ivermectin for treating COVID-19:

A cheap drug credited with dramatically reducing COVID-19 deaths has been moved to trial stage in the UK.

Researchers at Oxford University are carrying out a Principle trial programme aimed at finding a treatment that can counteract the disease at an early stage and could be used at home soon after symptoms appear.

The next batch of medicines it will assess includes ivermectin, which has been hailed as a Covid “wonder drug”, the Times reported.

Ivermectin has traditionally been used on livestock and to treat people with parasitic infestations, but has been credited with reducing Covid deaths in the developing world.

However, scientists have warned that its efficacy is yet to be properly proven.

“It has potential antiviral properties and anti-inflammatory properties and there have been quite a few smaller trials conducted in low and middle-income countries, showing that it speeds recovery, reduces inflammation and reduces hospitalisation,” Chris Butler, Professor of Primary Care at the University of Oxford and a co-chief of the Principle trial, told the newspaper.

“But there’s a gap in the data. There’s not been a really rigorous trial.”

The drug has been shown to block the entry of viral protein into the nuclei of cells, which could prevent the virus from replicated.

Results from initial, small-scale trials have been described as “promising”, though scientists and health officials have warned that further tests are needed.

It seems worth doing a mini round-up of just some of the evidence recently amassed for the beneficial effects of ivermectin:

The Swiss Doctor has an explanation of how ivermectin works:

To date, the mode of action of ivermectin against the SARS-CoV-2 has remained somewhat of a mystery. Early studies indicated that ivermectin may inhibit viral protein transportation. But a new US-Canadian study, published in Nature Communications Biology, found that ivermectin is highly effective (>90%) in inhibiting the main enzyme (3CLpro) involved in the replication of the SARS-CoV-2 (and other RNA viruses). This might explain why ivermectin appears to be highly effective even as a prophylaxis against SARS-CoV-2 infection

Scepticism is required in all things, of course, but this treatment does look promising, as Mike Yeadon confirms:

https://twitter.com/MichaelYeadon3/status/1352518627212353537

REACT Report: Why Wasn’t it Peer Reviewed?

The latest REACT report from Imperial College received a fair amount of media attention for its finding that “Coronavirus infections are not falling” and that they “may have begun to rise”. Today we’re publishing a guest post by Alice Bragg, who points out that the REACT reports are seldom subjected to peer review.

Here we go again! Imperial College publishing reports that tell us we need more lockdowns for longer. The latest REACT report claims the last three weeks of lockdown have made no difference, so our children must suffer more.

The problem is that this report has not been peer-reviewed. As an academic friend once said to me, “If it’s not peer-reviewed, it’s not relevant.”

Which begs the question: why have only two of the 14 REACT reports, stretching back throughout last year, been peer-reviewed?

Here is the December 15th REACT report on the World Health Organisation website with its own clear warning:

“Preprints are preliminary research reports that have not been certified by peer review. They should not be relied on to guide clinical practice or health-related behaviour and should not be reported in news media as established information.”

Worth noting…

We have all been shocked by the footage from inside Intensive Care Units at hospitals in London and the South East. All the doctors, nurses, porters, cleaners and managers working in them are heroes, and we are indebted to them for the rest of our days.

But are lockdowns the way to prevent these scenes?

One would assume that policymakers would only implement a policy as far-reaching and punishing as lockdown if they had a strong degree of certainty that the suspension of our liberties will save lives.

It was in response to a model produced by Imperial College that the Government imposed the first lockdown. However, it is now widely acknowledged that the assumptions underpinning that model were highly dubious.

In addition, the code that powered that model has been found to be of very poor quality when reviewed and analysed by coding experts, computer programmers and epidemiologists. Even Professor Ferguson himself said that it was a model he had created more than 13 years ago to model the likely course of flu pandemics.

Nevertheless, we have watched our freedom of movement be suspended indefinitely, along with our freedom to associate with others of our choosing, the freedom to assemble and gather, and the freedom to protest (the cornerstone of any democracy). Our children are being denied their right to go to school and, in many cases, have been separated from their peers and wider family for almost a year. Businesses have been forcibly closed, many of which will never recover.

At a time when the stakes are so high, why would Imperial College’s REACT reports not be peer-reviewed?

The answer can be found in the peer-review process itself. Over the last 20 years, the number of papers submitted to journals has grown dramatically. This has been compounded by the growth of ‘pay to publish’ sites that make money every time a paper goes up. Experts who are qualified to carry out rigorous peer-reviews would probably prefer not to spend all their time critiquing other peoples’ papers. Demand outstrips the ‘peer’ supply.

That said, when research findings are being used to guide Government policy, there must be a way to cut through the crowd? After all, not many scientific papers are used to justify a population being denied their basic freedoms or children being taken out of school.

According to David Livermore, Professor of Medical Microbiology at the University of East Anglia and Chair of the Public Health England Resistance to Antibiotics Programme:

“REACT is a surveillance programme which then supports various studies and analyses. Such a surveillance programme would normally have an Independent Advisory Committee”

An Independent Advisory Committee of this nature, according to Prof Livermore, would undertake a number of tasks, including making sure that the people who participate in the programme continue to represent the population. They would also, he stresses, play the role of the peer-reviewer, so that when REACT reports hit the media and arrive on ministers’ desks, the information they contain has been rigorously assessed.

This is only possible if ‘independent’ means what it says, and that people who are constructively sceptical – asking awkward questions – are appointed, not just like-minded ‘friends of the project’. As the debate about ‘the science’ becomes increasingly polarised, inviting informed and qualified critics such as Dr Clare Craig, Dr Jonathan Engler, Dr Michael Yeadon, Dr John Lee and Joel Smalley onto an independent REACT advisory board would inspire great confidence.   

Stop Press: Over at the Spectator, Philip Thomas has more on why the REACT study is problematic

What Value Should We Put on a Human Life?

Today we’re publishing a new piece by Dr David Cook, a senior scientist with over 20 years’ experience in drug research and development. Following the row over Lord Sumption’s contribution to the Big Questions last weekend, Dr Cook explains the concept of Quality Adjusted Life Years (QALY), and then applies it to lockdowns.

In 2017 the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) rejected the drug nivolumab for use in the NHS to treat patients with advanced head and neck cancers. The reason given was that, despite the drug showing positive benefits, it was judged to be too expensive based on the cost per ‘quality adjusted life year’ (QALY). For patients with this disease (and clinicians treating them) this was a hugely disappointing decision and although subsequently nivolumab has been approved for use, at the point of this judgement it must have felt to these patients that their lives were somehow being deemed to be less valuable than those of other patients.

Let’s wind forward to today and Lord Sumption discussing the impact of lockdown on society and apparently suggesting something similar, namely, that some lives are less valuable than others.

But in both of these cases is this what was actually meant? Are we really assigning a value to a life? Are we really judging that some lives are more valuable than others and so more worthy of saving?

To answer these questions, let’s focus on QALYs because these seem to be highly culpable in the crime of ‘life valuation’.

Quality Adjusted Life Years (QALYs) are not used to assess the quality of a life and they are certainly not used to make a judgement on its value.

The reason for this is because QALYs are used to assess the impact and value of an intervention. The judgement as to the quality of someone’s life is something that only the individual can make, but regardless of how they feel about it as a whole, they would certainly be able to tell if it had improved or got worse after some kind of treatment. If I whack you on the hand with a ruler has this improved your quality of life? What if I now kiss it better?

This is the fundamental point – QALYs are always used comparatively: did this treatment or intervention improve or reduce the quality of life?

In assessing the value of new therapies, QALYs are used to try and produce an objective view of their (hopefully positive) impact. A good example of the challenges of this kind of assessment and why QALYs are so helpful is if we think about how we would assess the value of a new analgesic or pain treatment. Such a treatment may have no effect on life expectancy and so its whole impact is on quality of life. But how do you assess this impact when pain is such a personal experience? The only way is to actually ask the individual patient. As a result, a major part of the assessment of the benefit of such medicines is done through use of questionnaires and asking how the individual feels; did the treatment improve your quality of life? Then, by aggregating all of these individual responses together, we can start to assess whether overall the treatment was beneficial or not. You can see that at no point are we making a judgement of the quality or value of the patient’s life. The assessment we are making is of the value of the treatment.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: John Humphrys covers similar ground in his Saturday Daily Mail column. Noting that, according to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), the value of a QALY is about £30,000, he writes:

No one can possibly know yet how much the lockdowns have cost the country. The bills rocket with every day that passes. What we do know is that if we applied the QALY test to the lives ‘saved’, we would no longer be talking about £30,000 a year. It would be many times that amount.

The price of even the most expensive new drug is a drop in the ocean compared to the vast cost of closing down half the nation’s economy – and the bill is rising with every word I type.

So does that mean the life of someone who faces the risk of dying from Covid must be valued more than those who have other life-threatening conditions?

Many people have died because they’ve been unable to get the treatment they needed. Hard-headed calculations were presented to policy-makers who knew what the consequences of lockdowns would be but they took them anyway.

Look Him in The Eyes… A Reader Responds

A reader has written to us to express his disappointment about the NHS’s latest advertising campaign.

I am writing about the shocking new HMG/NHS coronavirus public health campaign. These are the adverts with “Look them in the eyes…” which show a poorly person wearing an oxygen mask.   

In public health the aim of an information campaign should be to give accurate, truthful and honest information so that the public can understand the issues and take any necessary steps or measures for their own health.

Does the Governments and NHS “Look them in they eyes…” poster campaign fit any of the above? A resounding NO! Their campaign is one of blame and division. They have chosen to set one group against another. There is the victim group, this is the sick virus sufferer. They are portrayed as the innocent victim whom someone else has done a terrible thing to.

If there is a victim then this other person must be a perpetrator, a bad person or person who has committed a crime. We would generally consider a perpetrator to have carried out their actions against the victim on purpose and in a planned way. It follows that whoever becomes sick with Covid, or any virus for that matter, has had a bad thing done to them and a bad person is to blame.

The Government and NHS in this poster campaign is blaming one set of people for doing a bad thing to another set of people and no good can come from this. No one is given accurate, measured or honest information upon which they can take actions. Instead, in setting up a victim and a perpetrator, our Government and NHS are setting one lot of people against another. It is extraordinary that a Government and Public Health Service should commission a campaign that blames and divides its population. The campaign fails on all accounts – it provides nothing, people will be angered by it and take no notice of it because it is not truthful, while other people will seek out the bad people to punish them.

A poster campaign like this fails all groups. There are real families who have passed covid on to each other. One person I know of who works for the NHS likely picked up the infection during their hospital shifts. From this person, the elder parents picked up an infection and sadly one died. Does our Government and NHS understand what it is suggesting to this worker and their family? The suggestion is the NHS worker has killed their own parent. 

It is widely acknowledged that many patients acquire their coronavirus infections during their hospital stay. Some of these people have died. Has the Government and the NHS looked itself in the eyes?

This is a terrible public information campaign. I believe it has come from a Government which has taken on the belief it can control a respiratory virus and is desperate to deflect blame as it becomes obvious it cannot.   

When a Government blames its population and attempts to turn one group against another what will become of us? Is the Government aiming for civil war?

A Smidgen of Optimism on Masks

Lockdown Sceptics reader Steve Sieff finds cause for optimism in the change in emphasis to medical and surgical masks in the various mandates, rules and guidance. Steve runs the Green band: Red band website which makes the case for a coloured wrist band system that could promote individual choice when it comes to social distancing and managing Covid risk.

I have an optimistic view to offer on the advance of N95 masks.

I know that the position of most lockdown sceptics is that masks should go. I also know that many of the LS arguments are based on the lack of evidence that they are effective to reduce transmission – even in some cases that they increase the risk of harm. I do not know, but I suspect, that for many LS readers, the question of transmission is largely irrelevant because they consider that the negatives of a masked society outweigh the gains that might be made if some reduction to transmission were shown. The logic behind this goes back to the fundamental belief that COVID-19 should not be ascribed the special status that it has been given on the basis that it affects a small percentage of people. Beyond that, the groups most likely to suffer can be easily identified and therefore can easily protect themselves or be protected.

I believe that underpinning the views above is a strong desire amongst the vast majority of LS readers to see a restoral of the individual’s right to make choices for themselves. We would all like to see a more balanced presentation of risks and of facts from our Government (and others). In the event that the balanced presentation of available data convinced some people to take extraordinary protective measures, we might disagree with the reaction, but most of us would acknowledge and respect others’ right to be cautious provided their decisions did not overly impact on the decisions we make when not in contact with them. This is the basis of Green Band: Red Band of course.

In the context of individual freedom, I wonder if a shift towards more protective masks might be a positive thing. I know that this might sound like anathema to most LS readers so I will explain. The mask narrative to date has been that “my mask protects you, your mask protects me”. This logic moves us away from personal responsibility towards collective responsibility. Those who do not wear a mask are letting down others and are stigmatised. More protective masks such as N95s and N99s could change this narrative. These masks are designed to protect users. If they were widely available then the message could shift to wearing a mask to protect yourself. There would still be some protection for others, but the emphasis would be on protecting oneself. That is extremely important because it could pave the way for masks to become a choice. Those at lower risk (whether through age or vaccination) could decide that they do not require the protection that a mask provides while those who were more concerned could opt to protect themselves.

Of course, this shift in approach will not come easily. There will be many who argue that mandatory self-protection has an important place (see seat-belts, motorcycle helmets, etc.) because the dramatic reduction in risk is worth enforcing for the relatively minor loss of liberty. And there will be those who will continue to believe that the individual has a duty to protect the NHS by making every effort not to get sick/injured, etc. While hospital numbers remain high, those arguments will no doubt be persuasive for the majority. However, as hospital numbers fall, the general assessment of risk will change. It is harder to maintain a climate of fear without supportive death rates and as increasing numbers of people are vaccinated. At that stage the availability of protective masks could give the Government the opportunity to end mask mandates in favour of advising people to wear N95/N99s if they are concerned.

Stop Press: The Connexion reports that the WHO is maintaining its recommendation for fabric masks.

A Close Encounter With the Police

A Lockdown Sceptics reader has written to us describing a nightmarish afternoon dog walk.

I just need to offload.

I went two miles to a huge area of open space. Arrived at 3pm. Walked the dog and got back to the car at 4.30pm, darkness now creeping in and a howling gale. My 21 year-old was with me (student final year law degree… yep so much stress and upset). We were about to drive off when a police car drove up and a rather hot (okay unnecessary detail) bobby stopped us.

Now at this point I looked around at the car park. Four cars and maybe a few bedraggled dog walkers. Hmm… No way he’s here for Covid surveillance, I thought. Maybe it’s a drug selling hotspot? To cut a long story short, yes he was there to nab (engage and educate) Covid rule-breaking criminals. After a 15-minute chat I drove off uncomfortably, having given him no details about how far we had come or why. The local police had actually sent a patrol car out in the rain to a hill at dusk to ask people why they were there!

Admittedly, my husband is critically vulnerable according to the NHS. Was I taking unnecessary risks and endangering his life? We walk locally and rarely go in shops. I’m  antisocial. I don’t need shops but I do need open spaces!

I relayed this story to a close friend. Her reply was aggressive, judgemental and swift. I shouldn’t have driven and my actions put others at risk. She claimed I could have had an accident and caused yet more issues for the ambulance service. I was very much in the wrong. She is a partner at a large law firm. She’s now so far lost in the crazy mists of fear that her reasoning is, in my opinion, misguided and extreme. A lawyer! We’ve had many such conversations and I’ve patiently listened and respected her views. This was a line too far over-stepped.

I’m terrified for the evolution I see in society. It’s gnawing holes of fear and anger into my very being . I’m watching the shifting mood, peoples lives used like props in a high-budget Derren Brown special.

And so, don’t stop fighting. I’m a harassed and war torn ‘at home mum of three’ with no influence. I need you… and all the other questioning sceptics. I want educated reasoning rather than fear-focused propaganda.

Next Week’s Davos Guest List

Like so much else these days, next week’s DAVOS summit will take place on Zoom. Deutsche Welle has the story:

It’s that time of the year again when a sleepy Alpine town in Switzerland usually comes alive as the global elite descends on its snow-clad slopes to debate global challenges. This year, however, Davos has been left undisturbed with its eponymous annual jamboree moving online amid a still raging COVID-19 pandemic…

The more than 50-year-old annual event attended by global political and business leaders, celebrities and prominent social activists is taking place amid the worst economic crisis in living memory that has rendered millions jobless and deepened global inequalities.

An annual risks survey published by the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Tuesday warned that economic and social fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to “social unrest, political fragmentation and geopolitical tensions”.

We need an economic recovery that is “more resilient, more inclusive and more sustainable”, WEF founder Klaus Schwab told reporters…

The pandemic and the uneven responses to the crisis unleashed by it have stoked geopolitical tensions. Governments have chosen to put national interests ahead of others, unilaterally shutting down borders and hoarding food and medical supplies.

We need to restore trust in our world, Schwab said. “We have to substantially reinforce global cooperation again and engage all stakeholders into the solution of the problems we face, and here we have to engage particularly business.”       

Nowhere has this me-first approach been more apparent than on the vaccine front where rich nations have secured billions of doses – many times the size of their populations – while poor nations struggle for supplies. The head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who is also one of the speakers, cautioned that the world was on the brink of “catastrophic moral failure”.

The global scramble for vaccines, or vaccine nationalism, risks prolonging the pandemic and delaying the easing of global travel restrictions.

“COVID-19 anywhere is COVID-19 everywhere,” WEF President Borge Brende told reporters. “We all are in the same boat and we would have to collaborate to really make progress.”

It is interesting to note that the WEF has a date in mind for when it may be able to meet in person:

A virtual summit doesn’t mean that Davos regulars, many of them without official badges, would be robbed of their opportunity to hobnob and strike deals at glamorous receptions that take place on the side lines of the main event.

The WEF has said it would hold its marquee event in person in Singapore from May 13th-16th later this year.

Worth reading in full.

Sceptics Under Fire

It won’t have escaped readers’ attention that lockdown sceptics are coming under increasing fire from defenders of lockdown orthodoxy. Now, it seems, the most fanatical of these defenders – a group that includes Neil O’Brien MP – have created a website called “Antivirus: The COVID-19 FAQ“. As you’ll see if you click on the link, it attempts to rebut most of the sceptics’ arguments and singles out a group of sceptics for criticism, most of them contributors to this website.

We thought about producing a lengthy response, making all the obvious points: the fact that some sceptics’ predictions have turned out to be inaccurate doesn’t mean their main argument – that the costs of lockdowns outweigh the benefits – should be dismissed; the proponents of lockdowns have made equally inaccurate predictions (remember the “Graph of Doom”?); some of the stories we’ve flagged up that were initially dismissed as “conspiracy theories” have turned out to be quite plausible (e.g. that SARS-CoV-2 escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology); there’s a world of difference between being a ‘lockdown sceptic’ and a ‘Covid denier’; the WHO has confirmed that our reservations about the accuracy of the PCR test are well-founded; etc., etc.

However, we thought it might be more fun to invite readers to defend lockdown scepticism from the arguments set out on Neil O’Brien’s ‘myth-busting’ website instead. So please take a look at the website and let us know what you think. Put the word “Antivirus” in the subject line and we’ll publish some of the best responses over the next few days.

Stop Press: We’ve received a terrific response to Christopher Snowdon’s Jan 16th piece in Quillette that we’ll publish tomorrow.

Round-up

https://twitter.com/gbdeclaration/status/1353000419270795265

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Seven today: “Hard Times Of Old England” by Steeleye Span, “Who’s Zoomin’ Who” by Aretha Franklin, “Running Out Of Fools” by Aretha Franklin, “Never Get Out Of These Blues Alive” by John Lee Hooker and Van Morrison, “Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’” by The Allman Brothers Band, “Won’t Get Fooled Again” by The Who and “Hard Times (Nobody Knows Better Than I” by Ray Charles

Love in the Time of Covid

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

Stop Press: In another disturbing development for our times, it would appear that the best hope of a right swipe on a dating app is getting vaccinated. TMZ reports that Tinder, Bumble and OkCupid have all seen a major uptick in profiles mentioning the words “vaccine” or “vaccinated’ in their bios, and indicating vaccination readiness as a screener for matches. The jury is still out on whether the vaccine reduces transmission.

Sharing Stories

Some of you have asked how to link to particular stories on Lockdown Sceptics so you can share it. To do that, click on the headline of a particular story and a link symbol will appear on the right-hand side of the headline. Click on the link and the URL of your page will switch to the URL of that particular story. You can then copy that URL and either email it to your friends or post it on social media. Please do share the stories.

Social Media Accounts

You can follow Lockdown Sceptics on our social media accounts which are updated throughout the day. To follow us on Facebook, click here; to follow us on Twitter, click here; to follow us on Instagram, click here; to follow us on Parler, click here; and to follow us on MeWe, click here.

Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, we bring you the author Jen Hatmaker, who has publicly apologised for the offensive opening line of the prayer she delivered at the inaugural interfaith prayer service held for President Joe Biden. The Christian Post has the story:

Christian author Jen Hatmaker, who on Thursday joined a progressive group of interfaith leaders for the National Prayer Service in honour of President Joe Biden’s inauguration, has apologized for the first line of a prayer she delivered at the event.

“Almighty God, You have given us this good land as our heritage,” Hatmaker began in the prayer that she said was written by organisers of the event in her apology posted on Facebook shortly after the event.

“I was proud to offer the final liturgical prayer which was written by the organizers to serve as an anchor. I have one regret and thus apology. The very first sentence thanked God for giving us this land as our heritage. He didn’t. He didn’t give us this land,” she said.

“We took this land by force and trauma. It wasn’t an innocent divine transaction in which God bestowed an empty continent to colonizers. This is a shiny version of our actual history. If God gave this land to anyone, it was to the Native community who always lived here,” Hatmaker continued.

She explained that as soon as she read the line from the prayer she began to regret it.

“I panicked and froze and then just kept going. I am so sorry, community. Primarily sorry to my Native friends. It matters to me that we reckon with our history of white supremacy and the lies we surrounded it with, and I am filled with regret that I offered yet another hazy, exceptional rendition of the origin story of colonization. Ugh,” she lamented. “I can’t go on without apologizing. My stomach hurt all day.”

Hatmaker, who is also a mother of five, said if she could change anything about the prayer she would have included a call for America to repent of things like the unjust systems the nation has built.

Hatmaker, who is also a mother of five, said if she could change anything about the prayer she would have included a call for America to repent of things like the unjust systems the nation has built.

“God, may we continue to be a people who reckon with our violent history, repent from the unjust systems we built, denounce white supremacy in all its forms past and present, and continue to work together to form a more perfect union,” she said

Stop Press: In a comment piece for the Times, Janice Turner says that the US is heading towards eradicating “the language of biological sex in order to appease an influential trans lobby”.

Stop Press 2: The Post Millennial has an exclusive interview with they/them, the editor of the Spectator USA’s new Wokeyleaks column who is seeking to expose the “CEOs and board members of the social justice movement”.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

We’ve created a one-stop shop down here for people who want to obtain a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card – because wearing a mask causes them “severe distress”, for instance. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and the Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. And if you feel obliged to wear a mask but want to signal your disapproval of having to do so, you can get a “sexy world” mask with the Swedish flag on it here.

Don’t forget to sign the petition on the UK Government’s petitions website calling for an end to mandatory face masks in shops here.

A reader has started a website that contains some useful guidance about how you can claim legal exemption. Another reader has created an Android app which displays “I am exempt from wearing a face mask” on your phone. Only 99p.

If you’re a shop owner and you want to let your customers know you will not be insisting on face masks or asking them what their reasons for exemption are, you can download a friendly sign to stick in your window here.

And here’s an excellent piece about the ineffectiveness of masks by a Roger W. Koops, who has a doctorate in organic chemistry. See also the Swiss Doctor’s thorough review of the scientific evidence here and Prof Carl Heneghan and Dr Tom Jefferson’s Spectator article about the Danish mask study here.

Stop Press: We have been reminded that today, 24th January, is the deadline by which the Secretary of State for Health was bound to review the requirements of the mask rules. The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings in a Relevant Place) (England) Regulations 2020 were passed on 24th July 2020. Regulation 9 stipulates that: “The Secretary of State must review the need for the requirements imposed by these Regulations before the end of the period of six months beginning with the day on which they come into force.’” It is unclear what the review will have entailed, but if any reader can enlighten us, please do so. According to Regulation 10, the mask regulations expire “at the end of the period of 12 months beginning with the day on which they come into force.” Six months to go.

Stop Press 2: The Telegraph has an entertaining postcard from South Dakota, where the Republicans are shunning masks to the consternation of the Democrats.

The Great Barrington Declaration

Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya

The Great Barrington Declaration, a petition started by Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya calling for a strategy of “Focused Protection” (protect the elderly and the vulnerable and let everyone else get on with life), was launched in October and the lockdown zealots have been doing their best to discredit it ever since. If you googled it a week after launch, the top hits were three smear pieces from the Guardian, including: “Herd immunity letter signed by fake experts including ‘Dr Johnny Bananas’.” (Freddie Sayers at UnHerd warned us about this the day before it appeared.) On the bright side, Google UK has stopped shadow banning it, so the actual Declaration now tops the search results – and Toby’s Spectator piece about the attempt to suppress it is among the top hits – although discussion of it has been censored by Reddit. The reason the zealots hate it, of course, is that it gives the lie to their claim that “the science” only supports their strategy. These three scientists are every bit as eminent – more eminent – than the pro-lockdown fanatics so expect no let up in the attacks. (Wikipedia has also done a smear job.)

You can find it here. Please sign it. Now over three quarters of a million signatures.

Update: The authors of the GBD have expanded the FAQs to deal with some of the arguments and smears that have been made against their proposal. Worth reading in full.

Update 2: Many of the signatories of the Great Barrington Declaration are involved with new UK anti-lockdown campaign Recovery. Find out more and join here.

Update 3: You can watch Sunetra Gupta set out the case for “Focused Protection” here and Jay Bhattacharya make it here.

Update 4: The three GBD authors plus Prof Carl Heneghan of CEBM have launched a new website collateralglobal.org, “a global repository for research into the collateral effects of the COVID-19 lockdown measures”. Follow Collateral Global on Twitter here. Sign up to the newsletter here.

Judicial Reviews Against the Government

There are now so many legal cases being brought against the Government and its ministers we thought we’d include them all in one place down here.

The Simon Dolan case has now reached the end of the road. The current lead case is the Robin Tilbrook case which challenges whether the Lockdown Regulations are constitutional. You can read about that and contribute here.

Then there’s John’s Campaign which is focused specifically on care homes. Find out more about that here.

There’s the GoodLawProject and Runnymede Trust’s Judicial Review of the Government’s award of lucrative PPE contracts to various private companies. You can find out more about that here and contribute to the crowdfunder here.

And last but not least there was the Free Speech Union‘s challenge to Ofcom over its ‘coronavirus guidance’. A High Court judge refused permission for the FSU’s judicial review on December 9th and the FSU has decided not to appeal the decision because Ofcom has conceded most of the points it was making. Check here for details.

Samaritans

If you are struggling to cope, please call Samaritans for free on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.org or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch. Samaritans is available round the clock, every single day of the year, providing a safe place for anyone struggling to cope, whoever they are, however they feel, whatever life has done to them.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the past 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. Doing these daily updates is hard work (although we have help from lots of people, mainly in the form of readers sending us stories and links). If you feel like donating, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links we should include in future updates, email us here. (Don’t assume we’ll pick them up in the comments.)

And Finally…

Latest News

How the Left Flunked the Lockdown Challenge

Lockdown Sceptics contributor and (as he puts it) working class revolutionary socialist Phil Shannon has a terrific piece in Left Lockdown Sceptics looking at how and why the Left failed so badly when Covid hit. Phil wrote for Lockdown Sceptics back in June on a similar theme and it’s great to have an update.

As a four-decade, veteran revolutionary working class socialist, it has dismayed me to see how the contemporary Left, whether in Government, in ‘Opposition’, in the trade unions, on the activist fringes or simply as liberal Guardian-reading, BBC-listening individuals, has almost uniformly become a noisy outpost of knee-trembling Covid Hysterics who have embraced, with disturbing relish, the mania for lockdown. The Left has become an auxiliary arm of the capitalist state and its distinguishing feature has been to spruik [publicly promote – Ed] for tougher, earlier and longer lockdowns. Through its love of a lockdown which devastates the working class, lays waste to civil liberties and disrespects science, the contemporary ‘Left’ well deserves to have quotation masks attached to it.

How the ‘Left’ has Flunked the Virus/Lockdown Challenge

Threat Inflation of the virus

The Left got off on the wrong foot by misrepresenting Covid as much more scary than what it actually is i.e. a bad-to-ordinary flu season. The Left has joined the lockdown establishment elite in inflating the risk posed by the SARS-CoV-2 virus by (1) lumping together deaths ‘with’ and deaths ‘from’ Covid; (2) conflating positive virus test results – including false positives – with actual clinical cases; (3) ignoring Covid’s fatal attraction almost solely for the already-ill elderly whilst being fairly innocuous to everyone else; (4) portraying the virus as a constant menace despite its cyclic behaviour as just another recurring, seasonal, warmth-shunning, mutating respiratory virus which naturally peters out during its summer recess; (5) deep-sixing the fear-quelling concept of naturally-acquired herd-immunity including pre-existing cross-immunity from other coronaviruses, both cornerstones of immunological and virological science; and (6) ignoring the fact that Covid was the plague that never was because it had been circulating globally, courtesy of the vast international Chinese tourist trade, since as early as September-October 2019, with nobody noticing anything statistically out of the ordinary in overall death rates prior to the March Madness triggered by panicky politicians in 2020.

Lockdown policy panic

From this failure of data and basic science, it has been a logical shimmy for the Left to join the policy panic by endorsing the disproportionate, and damaging, government response of economic lockdown. The Left does so under the time-honoured and politically-resonant banner of placing ‘lives before commerce’ but, in this instance, the sterling socialist catchphrase of ‘people before profit’ is mere rote dogma because it seeks to crack the nut of a mostly humdrum virus with the sledgehammer of deep economic contraction resulting in massive job losses and a decline in working class living standards, whilst recklessly embracing a giant Ponzi scheme of stellar government debt and deficit which will inevitably be paid for by austerity, increased taxes and lost opportunity costs which will fall most heavily, as they always do, on the current and future working class.

‘New Normal’ pseudoscience

Lockdown is the central dogma of ‘social distancing’ pseudoscience, a voodoo religion which comes with a host of ineffective, superstitious, magical-thinking, placebo-like, demonstratively ostentatious ‘New Normal’ rituals, all of which the Left has uncritically subscribed to – school closures, quarantining the healthy, smart-phone QR sign-in, Perspex checkout shields, masks, the 1.5 metre rule, test-test-test, track-and-trace, elbow-bumps and fist-pumps, the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder of hand sanitiser use, high-rotation North Korean style ‘public safety announcements’, Stand-Here/Don’t-Sit-There decals, ‘support bubbles’, Covid Marshals, Hallelujah vaccines, immunity-passports, limits on public gatherings, curfews, travel restrictions, border closures …. all of these pointless political and cultural theatrics predicated on a wildly exaggerated fear of a not terribly lethal virus. By also recycling vacuous slogans – ‘flatten the curve’, ‘do the right thing’, ‘save lives’, ‘slow the spread’, ‘stop the spread, ‘stay safe’ – the Covid-deranged Left has abrogated critical thinking for simplistic advertising copy.

Phil goes on to diagnose the “political pathologies afflicting the Left from lockdown” and explores the root causes.

Worth reading in full.

Lockdown Bills Begin to Arrive

In his budget yesterday, Chancellor Rishi Sunak brought the beginnings of realism to bear on the public finances after a year of make-believe economics, though there was still plenty of that. Kate Andrews has the details in the Spectator.

Last March’s £30bn spending splurge was just the start of hundreds of billions of pounds spent in the fight against COVID-19. Today Sunak pledged another £65bn: furlough and the Universal Credit uplift were both extended; incentive payments for businesses to take on apprentices were doubled; and ‘restart grants’ worth £5bn to help businesses get back on their feet were unveiled.

But this Budget wasn’t all giveaways. The Tory Chancellor announced a new, tiered system for corporation tax, which hikes the rate from 19% to 25% in 2023 for the most profitable businesses. He has also frozen personal income tax thresholds: dubbed a ‘stealth tax’, this will bump workers into higher tax brackets as wages rise while the thresholds don’t.

What does this mixed bag of policies mean for the UK’s economic recovery? The good news out of today’s Budget was an update from the Office for Budget Responsibility, which has moved forward its most recent forecast for GDP to return to pre-pandemic levels. This is now expected to happen in the middle of next year.

After contracting an astonishing 9.9% in 2020, growth is forecast to be 4% this year (reflecting a winter dominated by lockdown, and a summer in which restrictions are expected to be lifted), followed by a specular 7.3% boom in 2022.

The more problematic news, however, is that after 2022, growth rates are expected to fall back down to business as usual: hovering around a fine, but by no means impressive, 1.6% rate.  

As we continue to struggle through severe hits to the economy (another dip is predicted by the OBR this winter to account for the current lockdown), any positive growth figures might seem like good news. But if Sunak has plans to address the UK’s £2.8 trillion debt and sky-high deficits in the coming years without raising taxes further, it’s going to require a pro-growth agenda. 

Kate explains that the tax hikes are not to try to pay off the mountainous debt – a political aspiration that has receded into the far distance – but merely to tread water and service it.

The bills are finally falling due and it’s not pretty. The unemployment bomb has been deferred once again with the extension of the Universal Basic Income furlough scheme to the autumn. That’s a nettle no Government wants to grasp and it will be interesting to see what happens as we get closer to September.

Worth reading Kate’s piece in full.

The HCQ Saga

We’re publishing today an original piece by Rick Bradford, an Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the University of Bristol Department of Engineering, who asks if much of the world has failed to benefit from an effective, early-stage treatment for COVID-19, hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), because of misleading early trial results. He writes:

Hydroxychloroquine is not an exotic new drug with which doctors and medical authorities have little experience. On the contrary, it has been used widely for decades to treat malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. It came to public attention as a potential treatment for COVID-19 early in 2020, not least because of President Trump’s espousal of it.

In the period March – July 2020, attention focused on the WHO-led multinational Solidarity Trial and the UK’s own Recovery Trial which addressed the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine against COVID-19.

The Chief Investigators of the Recovery project released a press statement on June 5th 2020 which stated simply, “no clinical benefit from use of hydroxychloroquine in hospitalised patients with COVID-19”.

On July 4th 2020 the Solidarity project discontinued the hydroxychloroquine and lopinavir/ritonavir trials. The interim trial results showed that hydroxychloroquine and lopinavir/ritonavir produced little or no reduction in the mortality of hospitalized COVID-19 patients when compared to standard of care. The Solidarity Trial found that all four treatments evaluated (remdesivir, hydroxychloroquine, lopinavir/ritonavir and interferon) had little or no effect on overall mortality, initiation of ventilation and duration of hospital stay in hospitalised patients.

The Recovery and Solidarity trials were exclusively carried out on seriously ill patients in hospital, rather than the early-stage patients for which there was existing evidence that hydroxychloroquine might be effective. A drug which acts against the pathogen is most relevant when the pathogen is multiplying. In the later stages of COVID-19, the illness becomes an immune-system-driven inflammatory condition, and by that time the original pathogen has already done its damage. Could it be that the negative results of the Recovery and Solidarity trials were due to their deployment to patients in an inappropriate phase of the disease? Certainly, Professor Didier Raoult from IHU-Marseille, and an early leading proponent of hydroxychloroquine, was not impressed with the Recovery trial, accusing it of being “the Marx Brothers doing science”.

In passing I note that a further multinational trial, REMAP-CAP, was also deployed only to seriously ill patients with severe pneumonia admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU). I have found no results from this study. On June 3rd 2020 it was suspended following the scare from a now infamous Lancet paper by Mehra et al which claimed the use of hydroxychloroquine increased death rates (the paper was retracted a few days later). I presume that trial was never restarted.

Another criticism of the Recovery and Solidarity trials which has been made is of the dosage regime, with the doses appearing to be substantially greater than standard practice when the drug is used against malaria, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis (see, for example, “Killing the cure: The strange war against hydroxychloroquine“).

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: A paper on another cheap drug that has shown early strong signs of effectiveness, ivermectin, was removed this week by the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology, despite being provisionally accepted, leading to questions of fair treatment. The Scientist has more details.

The paper’s removal has drawn anger from members of the FLCCC [Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance] and its followers. In comments on Twitter and in an interview with The Scientist, the organization’s president, Pierre Kory, describes the move as “censorship.” He adds in the interview that the paper had already successfully passed through multiple rounds of review. In reversing the paper’s acceptance, the journal is “allowing some sort of external peer reviewer to comment on our paper,” he says. “I find that very abnormal.”

Ivermectin is widely used in tropical medicine to treat parasitic infections, but its use as a COVID-19 drug has been controversial since the beginning of the pandemic, with major health organizations consistently stating that there is insufficient evidence for its efficacy in prevention or treatment of the disease.

The FLCCC’s paper (also posted on the organisation’s website) reviewed epidemiological and clinical evidence on ivermectin’s use in people infected with and exposed to SARS-CoV-2. In it, the authors argued that health agencies such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) should update their recommendations to include the drug.

Frontiers takes no position on the efficacy of ivermectin as a treatment of patients with COVID-19, however, we do take a very firm stance against unbalanced or unsupported scientific conclusions.—Frederick Fenter, Frontiers

After being contacted by The Scientist, the journal posted a statement from Frontiers’s chief executive editor, Frederick Fenter, saying that “Frontiers takes no position on the efficacy of ivermectin as a treatment of patients with COVID-19, however, we do take a very firm stance against unbalanced or unsupported scientific conclusions.”

During review of the article in what the journal refers to as “the provisional acceptance phase,” Fenter says in the statement, members of Frontiers’s research integrity team identified “a series of strong, unsupported claims based on studies with insufficient statistical significance, and at times, without the use of control groups.”

The statement continues: “Further, the authors promoted their own specific ivermectin-based treatment which is inappropriate for a review article and against our editorial policies. In our view, this paper does not offer an objective nor balanced scientific contribution to the evaluation of ivermectin as a potential treatment for COVID-19.”

The statement provided no information about why these concerns had been raised and acted on now, rather than earlier in the publication process.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press 2: The British Ivermectin Recommendation Development (BIRD) panel has issued its recommendation on the use of ivermectin for COVID-19. It explains:

The antiparasitic medicine ivermectin, which is widely available in LMICs, has been tested in numerous clinical trials of prevention and treatment of COVID-19 with promising results. A large body of evidence on ivermectin use in COVID-19 had thus accumulated, which required urgent review by health professionals and other stakeholders to determine whether it could inform clinical practice in the UK and elsewhere. More specifically, answers were needed to the following priority questions: (i) For people with COVID-19 infection, does ivermectin compared with placebo or no ivermectin improve health outcomes?, and (ii) for people at higher risk of COVID-19 infection, does ivermectin compared with placebo or no ivermectin improve health outcomes?

On February 20th 2021, the British Ivermectin Recommendation Development (BIRD) meeting was convened in Bath, United Kingdom, to evaluate the evidence on ivermectin use for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19. Evidence to address the priority questions was evaluated by a panel of clinical experts and other stakeholders in the form of a DECIDE evidence-to-decision framework, the gold standard tool for developing clinical practice guidelines.

Find it here.

A School That’s Following Government Guidance

This is not Government guidance

A Lockdown Sceptics reader has got in touch to tell us that, in line with Government guidance, his son’s school is not insisting on tests and masks, and has responded well to his emails querying their initial statements.

I just wanted to write, following the Daily Telegraph reporting that schools are banning pupils who do not have the tests, that my son’s school is not like that. I wrote an email to the school last week highlighting all the points (see below). The headmaster wrote to all parents on Tuesday confirming this and their position on masks.

In line with Government direction, I would also wish to highlight that, whilst testing is strongly encouraged, it remains voluntary and, in those instances where parents do not wish their children to be tested (or, indeed, where the students are of an age (16 or above) when they can decide themselves not to be tested) they are still able to return to School as normal. In a similar fashion, the Government direction we are following as a School is that the wearing of masks inside buildings (for example, in classrooms and communal spaces) is recommended but not compulsory. As we gain a greater understanding of how many pupils choose not to wear a mask, we may adapt our systems to enable greater social distancing or to further reduce risk in other ways”. 

I have been writing to them quite a lot and got my son excused from wearing a mask last term, highlighting that a GP letter was not required and pointing them towards the Government website. Their position seems to become more relaxed following my emails (for example, “must have completed their first test” became “should have been offered Test 1 before they return”). Maybe my emails have opened their eyes a little. I hope so.

Here is my original email.

Dear Mr XXXXX,

Good morning. I am writing in relation to the testing programme as part of the return of pupils to face to face tuition. I want to understand what the school’s position is in relation to being tested or not and the reasons behind those rules, bearing in mind the legality of any such decision.

You state in your letter dated February 25th 2021 that, “before students start face to face teaching, they must have completed their first test (Test 1)”. This is not the Government’s position. You later state that, “testing of course remains completely voluntary, although strongly encouraged.” It hasn’t been made clear what will happen if pupils do not have the tests, but I should point out what it says on the relevant government website here.

It says, “From March 8th, all children and students should return to school and college. All primary pupils should attend school from this date. All secondary pupils and college students will be offered testing from March 8th, and those who consent to testing should return to face-to-face education following their first negative test result. If you or your child (if they are aged over 18) do not consent, they will not be stopped from going back and will return in line with their school or college’s arrangements.” (emphasis added)

It is therefore perfectly clear that the tests are voluntary and children are not to be excluded if they do not have the tests. All it is saying is that if you do have the tests, you need to have a negative result before returning. This is the Government’s position and the legal position. What are the arrangements at the school for those who do not have the tests, bearing in mind what I have brought to your attention, i.e., you cannot exclude those who do not have the tests?

I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely

Stop Press: The Guardian asks: “Should primary schoolchildren be made to wear masks?” Communist Party and SAGE member Susan Michie says the benefits are that whatever small degree of transmission is occurring in these age groups could be limited, and it could help normalise the practice, meaning young children wearing masks may make their families more likely to accept masks. And that’s where the debate is in the Guardian.

May be an image of text that says "LAWYERS for LIBERTY"

Jo Rogers from Lawyers for Liberty is offering a useful service on Facebook for the parents of children who don’t wear masks or consent to tests.

If you don’t want conflict with the school, but want your concerns noted, click this button to provide your details.

The email below will then be sent anonymously within 48 hours from Lawyers for Liberty.

The email will not reference your child or you.

Here is the email.

Find it on Facebook here.

Poetry Corner

A Complex Post-traumatic in Covid Times

When I walk into the shop
All you see is a selfish being
Not wearing a mask as provision
But my trauma is not for your seeing

The mask represents oppression
Not only in my life, but historically
Despite now loose from their clutches
I still do not feel free

My trauma is not palatable
To the staunch covid followers
Though they do not know the abuse
Inflicted on me as child by monsters

They say, “I’m doing it to save lives”
But when I’m triggered I die daily
The manipulation ever rife
Gas lighting is not a maybe

Being under house arrest is the same
As when I was locked in my room at 3
Banging on the door with my cries
Till I was let out temporarily.

Being forced fed my food
Like the propaganda machine and their lies
If you really were humane
Why not look into my eyes

Tell me my pain doesnt matter
Or that of my fellow spirits
We are just humans coping best we can
But being pushed to our outer limits

I had too much forced upon me
So forgive me for declining the coercion
I will not be poisoned by their prick
So go ahead, cast your aspersion

Rising From the Ashes

Four readers today have written to tell us about their new business ventures since lockdown disrupted their previous employment.

Herts Pasta:

My husband is a chef who lost his job as a result of the Government restrictions (not as a result of Covid). He has now set up a business in Hertfordshire making and delivering fresh pasta meal kits www.hertspasta.com

Simpkin & Roses:

Simpkin & Roses was a successful catering and events business, owned and run by me and my wife, and our sole source of income. We had a good reputation and were really beginning to see the rewards from 10 years of work, during which we also got married and had two children.

This all came to an abrupt end a little under a year ago when our business effectively became illegal. Due to various technicalities we have only qualified for around £6k of grants. I won’t get started on this as it’s counterproductive!

We have just launched a nationwide delivery service of really delicious frozen ready meals, all made by hand in small batches. All packaging is recyclable and compostable. We will have children’s meals available very soon but at the moment we have a selection of meals and soups, all double portions. We launched on Monday at long last, having taken until July to really come to terms with the fact that the “three weeks” was the long haul. We had our third child in November which was another complication but finally we have done it and are very excited about the future!

Anyway the website is www.simpkinandroses.com and we would love to serve any like-minded sceptics. We are running a promotion at the moment and if you use the coupon WELCOME21 at the checkout you will get 15% off.

Alison Cotton:

I have been running my own bookkeeping business in the Salisbury area for 13 years but, with many of my clients forced by this wretched lockdown into closure or vastly reduced operations, I am now earning less than half of my income a year ago.

I’m simply not ready to throw in the towel so if any businesses or individuals out there would like some assistance with their bookkeeping or general office admin I’d be delighted to help – and would offer my services free of charge initially if someone is really struggling. I’d hate to see the entrepreneurial spirit crushed in small businesses who have quite enough to deal with in complying with the outrageous barriers put in their way by this government.

Please email me here.

Huckleberry:

Since losing my position at the start of Lockdown 1, I then spent much time sitting around waiting for it all to get back to normal, however as we all know things didn’t. My wife then lost her job in October and we then decided to start a new venture. I have been in the kitchen and bespoke furniture industry before, but www.huckleberryhome.co.uk started up around the kitchen table in November and I am pleased to report is now firing on all cylinders after a three month start time. It’s been a lot of hard work, has literally been done for nothing as we are still both on Universal Credit but I am delighted that it is working and hope you can share the good news.

If you have a story to share then email us here and we’ll see if we can give your new venture a boost.

COVID-1984

A few more Party slogans from readers:

CRUELTY IS COMPASSION
INFORMED CONSENT IS CONFORMED CONSENT
PROTECT THE NHS – DIE AT HOME

WE ARE NO LONGER AT WAR WITH THE SOUTH AFRICAN VARIANT; WE ARE NOW AT WAR WITH THE BRAZILIAN VARIANT. WE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN AT WAR WITH THE BRAZILIAN VARIANT

Round-up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Five today: “The Fear” by Travis, “I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers, “My City Was Gone” by Pretenders,  “Line Up” by Elastica and “Where’s the Freedom” by Subhumans.

Love in the Time of Covid

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of attention. We have a team of moderators in place to remove spam and deal with the trolls, but sometimes it takes a little while so please bear with us. You have to register to use the Forums as well as post comments below the line, but that should just be a one-time thing. Any problems, email Lockdown Sceptics here.

Sharing Stories

Some of you have asked how to link to particular stories on Lockdown Sceptics so you can share it. To do that, click on the headline of a particular story and a link symbol will appear on the right-hand side of the headline. Click on the link and the URL of your page will switch to the URL of that particular story. You can then copy that URL and either email it to your friends or post it on social media. Please do share the stories.

Social Media Accounts

You can follow Lockdown Sceptics on our social media accounts which are updated throughout the day. To follow us on Facebook, click here; to follow us on Twitter, click here; to follow us on Instagram, click here; to follow us on Parler, click here; and to follow us on MeWe, click here.

Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, it’s racist babies. Christopher Rufo tweets that “the Arizona Department of Education has created an ‘equity’ toolkit claiming that babies show the first signs of racism at three months old and that white children ‘remain strongly biased in favour of whiteness’ by age five”. Spiked has the details.

Have you ever wondered if your baby is racist? You should, according to the Arizona Department of Education.

Journalist Christopher Rufo’s investigations have revealed how far critical race theory has spread in America’s institutions – including, most alarmingly, in schools.

His latest discovery is that the Arizona Department of Education has released a new “equity” toolkit intended to help families and teachers tackle racism among children. It advises that even babies as young as three months old can show racial prejudice. The evidence? They “look more at faces which match the race of their caregivers”.

According to the toolkit, by the age of two and a half kids use race to determine who their playmates should be. “Expressions of racial prejudice often peak at ages four and five”, it says. “By kindergarten, children show many of the same racial attitudes that adults in our culture hold – they have already learned to associate some groups with higher status than others.”

So what should we do about this? The toolkit says that children must be made aware that “the reality in which they are embedded ascribes unearned privileges to their whiteness”.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: With The Muppet Show now available on Disney+, the company has slapped a woke warning on it: “This program includes negative depictions and/or mistreatment of peoples or cultures. These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now. Rather than remove this content, we want to acknowledge its harmful impact, learn from it and spark conversation to create a more inclusive future together.”

Paul du Quenoy in the Critic can see why.

White and class privilege also rear their ugly heads throughout the series. The otherwise innocuous-looking Scooter, a bespectacled novice who seems so nice and inoffensive in his casually preppy mien, sure does know how to get his way in the theatre in which the show is set. All he has to do is issue implicit threats at Kermit the Frog, who manages the acts, by mentioning his unseen uncle, who owns the theatre and will presumably wield all the inequitable power of finance capital if Scooter’s whims and dictates are ignored. The hateful structures of power in the Muppet universe are all too obvious, even if their fetters are invisible.

And who could ignore Statler and Waldorf, the greatest villains of them all, a pair of old white males in black tie who survey the action from the elevated comfort of their exclusive box? Named for prominent hotels that are perhaps the source of their wealth, their main function is to cast down sarcastic comments upon the poor defenceless performers while they also, to add insult to injury, mock each other for their various disabilities. At the very least, we should have a separate warning to guard us against the ugly and retrograde notion, so blatantly reinforced by The Muppet Show, that the arts only exist for the amusement and approval of rich white men.

Worth reading in full.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

We’ve created a one-stop shop down here for people who want to obtain a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card – because wearing a mask causes them “severe distress”, for instance. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and the Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. And if you feel obliged to wear a mask but want to signal your disapproval of having to do so, you can get a “sexy world” mask with the Swedish flag on it here.

A reader has started a website that contains some useful guidance about how you can claim legal exemption. Another reader has created an Android app which displays “I am exempt from wearing a face mask” on your phone. Only 99p.

If you’re a shop owner and you want to let your customers know you will not be insisting on face masks or asking them what their reasons for exemption are, you can download a friendly sign to stick in your window here.

And here’s an excellent piece about the ineffectiveness of masks by a Roger W. Koops, who has a doctorate in organic chemistry. See also the Swiss Doctor’s thorough review of the scientific evidence here and Prof Carl Heneghan and Dr Tom Jefferson’s Spectator article about the Danish mask study here.

Stop Press: Joggers have been told by scientists they should wear face masks when running outside near others. The Derbyshire Times has more.

Experts have warned there can be a “danger” for pedestrians when a “puffing, panting” jogger passes by them, but stressed it is safe for people to “run freely” when in wide open spaces.

The warning comes amid fears that pedestrians could inhale the air from passing joggers, putting them at possible risk of catching Covid-19.

Trish Greenhalgh, professor in primary care health sciences at the University of Oxford, told Good Morning Britain: “There is no doubt the virus is in the air, there is no doubt that you can catch it if you inhale, and that someone else has exhaled.

“The exercising jogger – the puffing and panting jogger – you can feel their breath come and you can sometimes actually feel yourself inhale it, so there’s no doubt that there is a danger there.

“40% of Covid cases happen by catching it from people who have no symptoms.

“So you’re jogging along, you think you’re fine, and then the next day you develop symptoms of Covid, but you’ve actually breathed that Covid onto someone perhaps you know, an old lady walking a dog, or something like that.”

“40% of Covid cases happen by catching it from people who have no symptoms” that’s even higher than the Government’s mantra of one in three. In fact the studies show asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission accounts for only around 0.7% of transmission, not 40%.

Stop Press 2: A new study by D. G. Rancourt reviewing the harms of mask-wearing has been published on ResearchGate. Find it here.

The Great Barrington Declaration

Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya

The Great Barrington Declaration, a petition started by Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya calling for a strategy of “Focused Protection” (protect the elderly and the vulnerable and let everyone else get on with life), was launched in October and the lockdown zealots have been doing their best to discredit it ever since. If you googled it a week after launch, the top hits were three smear pieces from the Guardian, including: “Herd immunity letter signed by fake experts including ‘Dr Johnny Bananas’.” (Freddie Sayers at UnHerd warned us about this the day before it appeared.) On the bright side, Google UK has stopped shadow banning it, so the actual Declaration now tops the search results – and Toby’s Spectator piece about the attempt to suppress it is among the top hits – although discussion of it has been censored by Reddit. In February, Facebook deleted the GBD’s page because it “goes against our community standards”. The reason the zealots hate it, of course, is that it gives the lie to their claim that “the science” only supports their strategy. These three scientists are every bit as eminent – more eminent – than the pro-lockdown fanatics so expect no let up in the attacks. (Wikipedia has also done a smear job.)

You can find it here. Please sign it. Now over three quarters of a million signatures.

Update: The authors of the GBD have expanded the FAQs to deal with some of the arguments and smears that have been made against their proposal. Worth reading in full.

Update 2: Many of the signatories of the Great Barrington Declaration are involved with new UK anti-lockdown campaign Recovery. Find out more and join here.

Update 3: You can watch Sunetra Gupta set out the case for “Focused Protection” here and Jay Bhattacharya make it here.

Update 4: The three GBD authors plus Prof Carl Heneghan of CEBM have launched a new website collateralglobal.org, “a global repository for research into the collateral effects of the COVID-19 lockdown measures”. Follow Collateral Global on Twitter here. Sign up to the newsletter here.

Judicial Reviews Against the Government

There are now so many legal cases being brought against the Government and its ministers we thought we’d include them all in one place down here.

The Simon Dolan case has now reached the end of the road. The current lead case is the Robin Tilbrook case which challenges whether the Lockdown Regulations are constitutional, although that case, too, has been refused permission to proceed. There’s still one more thing that can be tried. You can read about that and contribute here.

The GoodLawProject and three MPs – Debbie Abrahams, Caroline Lucas and Layla Moran – brought a Judicial Review against Matt Hancock for failing to publish details of lucrative contracts awarded by his department and it was upheld. The Court ruled Hancock had acted unlawfully.

Then there’s John’s Campaign which is focused specifically on care homes. Find out more about that here.

There’s the GoodLawProject and Runnymede Trust’s Judicial Review of the Government’s award of lucrative PPE contracts to various private companies. You can find out more about that here and contribute to the crowdfunder here.

Scottish Church leaders from a range of Christian denominations have launched legal action, supported by the Christian Legal Centre against the Scottish Government’s attempt to close churches in Scotland  for the first time since the the Stuart kings in the 17th century. The church leaders emphasised it is a disproportionate step, and one which has serious implications for freedom of religion.”  Further information available here.

There’s the class action lawsuit being brought by Dr Reiner Fuellmich and his team in various countries against “the manufacturers and sellers of the defective product, PCR tests”. Dr Fuellmich explains the lawsuit in this video. Dr Fuellmich has also served cease and desist papers on Professor Christian Drosten, co-author of the Corman-Drosten paper which was the first and WHO-recommended PCR protocol for detection of SARS-CoV-2. That paper, which was pivotal to the roll out of mass PCR testing, was submitted to the journal Eurosurveillance on January 21st and accepted following peer review on January 22nd. The paper has been critically reviewed here by Pieter Borger and colleagues, who also submitted a retraction request, which was rejected in February.

And last but not least there was the Free Speech Union‘s challenge to Ofcom over its ‘coronavirus guidance’. A High Court judge refused permission for the FSU’s judicial review on December 9th and the FSU has decided not to appeal the decision because Ofcom has conceded most of the points it was making. Check here for details.

Samaritans

If you are struggling to cope, please call Samaritans for free on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.org or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch. Samaritans is available round the clock, every single day of the year, providing a safe place for anyone struggling to cope, whoever they are, however they feel, whatever life has done to them.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the past 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. Doing these daily updates is hard work (although we have help from lots of people, mainly in the form of readers sending us stories and links). If you feel like donating, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links we should include in future updates, email us here. (Don’t assume we’ll pick them up in the comments.)

And Finally…

Blower’s cartoon in yesterday’s Telegraph

Let’s Not Be Sensible, Folks

by Sinéad Murphy

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GN5B27zT29Y

My little boy with autism is back at school, for three days in the week. His support teacher is at last unmasked. On the seventh day of his return, there was an unheralded change. Instead of Joseph being accompanied by his support teacher at pick-up time so that she and I might have a quick chat, he was sent out alone along with his classmates. Inside his bag was a new small notebook, with “Communication Log” written on the cover, in which there were phrases describing aspects of Joseph’s day.

Joseph’s communication is profoundly restricted. He is unable to report any aspect of his physical experience; he cannot tell of anything that has happened to him, no matter how recently. A short exchange, before and after school, with the person responsible for him during the day is essential.

At drop-off time the following morning, Joseph’s support teacher watched helplessly from behind the classroom’s glass door while I held Joseph’s hand at the gate – another of the pathetic scenes that have been a feature of our Covid incarceration. “Mummy’s going to drop you here”, said one of Joseph’s year’s teachers, to me via him. When I objected, she told me, in a rush of what seemed like resentment, that the ‘Communication Log’ was to substitute for the morning and evening chats.

It did not take much representation to the school’s Head to have the chats reinstated; the arguments in their favour were so obviously reasonable. But that the arguments against them were so paltry reveals something concerning, I think.

Even according to ‘The Science’, there could be no conceivable added risk of infection by a respiratory virus in ending a day of up-close support of Joseph by standing in the open air and talking for a few minutes to his mum – to his credit, the Head did not attempt to suggest that there could be.

But if there was nothing actually harmful about these chats, even on the highly-sensitive Covid safety-scale, why were they ruled out so summarily?

Joseph’s support teacher is a woman of great humour; chatting with her is inevitably a lively affair no matter how mundane the topic. But there is something indistinctly offensive now about liveliness of any kind, something excessive, disrespectful.

On our uncertain return to normality there is dawning a new morality, according to which lively human interaction is unseemly simply by virtue of being… well, lively.

This may explain why persecution of the public house continues unabated – insofar as the pub encourages informal and vibrant association, it is the den of a new iniquity: the spontaneous overflow of the human spirit.

At the supermarket checkout the other day, the man in front of me observed through his mask to the woman working the till, how good it is that we have our freedoms back. So long as we use them sensibly, he added.

We have been prodded this year by the devilish theme of safety, which has dramatically altered the contour of our lives. But now the colour of our lives may be changing too, as we are encouraged from all sides not only to stay safe but to be sensible.

On May 15th, the FA Cup final was attended by twenty-two thousand supporters. The fans were back. Football was back. And certainly, the real crowd did foreground how anaemic has been its virtual equivalent. But when Leicester scored the goal that won them the cup, their cheering fans were faced down by a line of officials, caped in plastic over their high-visibility jackets and fanning their outstretched gloved hands, palms downwards, in a calming gesture – Let’s be sensible, folks.

Two days later, May 17th, brought the return of hugging for anyone who had been observing the ban. But it is not a rush-into-the-arms hugging, not a big hugging, not a tight hugging, all of which have about them this new taint of excess. It is sensible hugging: faces turned in opposite directions and got over with as quickly as possible.

There is a new kind of puritanism abroad – casting its pall over our lives, already so out of shape. Those moments when life is brimming over, when we act on impulse, when our sides split with laughter, when we cry with anger or with joy, when we cannot let go our embrace or when we could talk and talk for hours: all have about them a new hue of poor taste. The palate of human life has been dimmed; Let’s be sensible, folks.


In a short blog post from April 16th, the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben prepared us for a change of this kind.

Differently from other animals, Agamben wrote, we humans have always the task of deciding what it is that makes us human, and not merely animal.

Homo sapiens is the being that knows itself, the only being on earth that must determine its own essence.

This unique duty – that we decide the kind of being that we are – is what makes us humans so culturally rich and almost infinitely adaptable. But it is also what makes us vulnerable, as no other animal is, to being transformed, profoundly, from the ground up.

Nothing absolute stands in the way of our knowing ourselves differently and knowing ourselves differently changes us utterly.

Is such a change occurring now, as we get back to our new future? Are we in the process of deciding all over again what it is that makes us human?

This would certainly explain the newly muted tones of the life that we are now to live, in which the chatting, the cheering, the hugging that still come naturally to some of us seem suddenly and strangely out of step, not really done, a bit much – Let’s be sensible, folks.


According to Agamben, a society’s decision about what it is that makes us human is reflected in what that society identifies as ‘mere existence’ – bare life. In this space are established the terms on which we claw back from our animal natures whatever it is that is judged to make us human.

We opponents of governments’ Covid policies have traded heavily on this concept of ‘mere existence’, criticising the lockdowns for having reduced our human life to its bare bones.

But in doing so, have we unwittingly lent our voices to a new Covid-era version of ‘mere existence’ and, consequently, to a new Covid-era decision about what it is that makes us human?

Still when I was growing up, references to ‘mere existence’ had mostly to do with work; bare life was the life absorbed by a low-paid unsatisfying job with long hours, or (depressingly) by unwaged care of other people.

If you lived this mere existence, this bare life, you were perilously close to losing that which distinguished you as human – you were said to work like a dog, to have a dog’s life.

If you managed to rise above this mere existence to something better, something more human, you did so also in terms of work. Because a bare life was a life of unwaged drudgery, a full life was a life of satisfying and rewarding employment, and a good life was industrious and purposeful, filled with hobbies and sports at which you were as hardworking as you were at your job.

But since the advent of Covid, when we have bemoaned the reduction of our lives to mere existence, we have referred not to dull work without wages but to quarantine without symptoms. Bare life is no longer the life of unrewarding toil, but of isolation from other people, faces covered and hands sheathed.

The theme of bare life is no longer work but health, where ‘health’ refers, not to a personal equilibrium, but to public safety from invisible attack.

As we have lived this bare life during the past 15 months or so, and tried to reassert our humanness so as to rise above it, it is not the dog’s life against which we have had to define ourselves but the life of the herd animal whose individual hopes and needs are submitted to the advantage of the group: I isolate for everyone, I mask for everyone, I vaccinate for everyone.

Herd immunity has always been a feature of human life. It is a well-established phenomenon in epidemiology. But never before 2020 was it brought before us so unrelentingly that we were simultaneously compelled to reject it as beneath our human status and submitted to the version of it engineered and imposed by governments and their science advisers.

On the new terrain of bare-life-as-isolation-from-and-for-the-herd, we have had to battle all over again to reestablish what makes us human. Human life, we have objected, is more than isolation for the sake of public health. Human life, we have protested, is anathema to distance and to masks.

But we should be careful. Because, if we are beginning to win the battle against the reduction of our lives to mere-existence-as-quarantine, we are likely to be winning it on the terms set up by mere-existence-as-quarantine, that is, on the terms of health-as-safety.

If the society of work is coming to an end, the society of health may be just getting going. In this society, a full life will be the life of optimal protection from identified threats to public safety; and a good life will be the life of due respect for this enterprise, the careful life, the sensible life, in which our human bodies, now branded as traitors, will not be suffered to stretch their limbs too far, nor shout too loud, nor laugh too much, nor hug too tight.

The devil used to make work for idle hands – hence the old morality of working hard. Now the devil makes sickness for loose tongues, and all other body-parts that are brought to bear with gleeful abandon – hence the new morality of being sensible.


What is it that effects a transformation of this magnitude, from a life defined by work and lived industriously to a life defined by health and lived sensibly? How can such changes come about so suddenly and completely? According to Agamben, all it needs is a powerful enough device.

For the society of work, this device was the slave, an idea (rooted in reality, of course) profound enough to capture and recast a whole culture as woven around the theme of work and as haunted by the near-animality of work without reward.

For our society of health, the device is the asymptomatic, an idea (not rooted in reality, it turns out) so powerful that it has captured and recast our world as revolving around the theme of health-as-safety and as haunted by the prospect of disease at the level of the pack.

The device of the asymptomatic sick person has reset the horizons of our lives: the bare life is the life lived apart from the herd for the good of the herd; the full life is the life that is constantly proven to be without sickness itself and protected from the sickness of others: and the good life is the life that abstains from the joyful excess that so irresponsibly forgets that the absence of symptoms does not imply safety.


One of the Internet phenomena of our Covid era has been the film of a flash mob rendition of ‘Danser Encore’ in the Gard du Nord on March 4th.

It has inspired many repeat performances in towns and cities around the world, each one of them a joyful affair.

When I first saw the original video, its effect was profound. To see the sudden eruption, as if from nowhere, of… well, a mob, a glut of people, in the midst of the faceless bedraggle at the station – to see the masks carelessly pulled down or discarded, the random weaving in and out of the crowd, arms linked to the music, to hear singing at the top of fine unmuffled voices. Such a glorious upturning of safety.

But what strikes me now when I watch it is the ludicrousness of the performance, an assemblage of this and that: the tap dancer on her makeshift floor; the circus performer in his Breton top, making upside-down frog-legs; the amateur country dancers; the woman in the mask (around her eyes, not her mouth and nose!) creeping stealthily through the scene… random, heedless, a propos of nothing, not at all sensible.

If we are to unwind the Covid decision about what it is that makes us human – if we are to defuse the device of the asymptomatic spreader and refuse the life of safety to which it consigns us, then we might do worse than begin here, with the players in the Gard du Nord: and dance again and hug again and cheer again and chat again with the lively abandon that spares not a thought for the hidden health-status of ourselves or anyone else.

Dr Sinead Murphy is Associate Researcher in Philosophy at Newcastle University.

Covid Madness

by Manfred Horst

Ophelia (1851) by John Everett Millais.

Though this be madness, yet there is method in ’t.

Shakespeare, Hamlet II,2

Perhaps we should consider it a privilege to live one of the absurdest and grotesquest episodes of recent world history.

Perhaps we should consider it a privilege to witness how easily scientific and democratic control mechanisms can be overwhelmed by a global panic disorder.

Perhaps we should consider it a privilege to be merely publicly and socially ostracised if we dare utter a dissenting opinion to the uniform mainstream madness and hysteria.

Perhaps we should consider it a privilege to only be fined or imprisoned (not eliminated) if we dare disobey ridiculous and inhuman governmental orders.

Certainly, in the developed West, we must also consider it a privilege to still be living quite well.

Any one of the hundreds of subtypes of common cold/bronchitis viruses which assail our immune systems every year would produce the same clinical and epidemiological features as SARS-CoV-2 – if we decide to test and look for it:

  1. Non-specific symptoms – fever, cough, headaches, muscle aching, diarrhea etc.
  2. If we look very closely, perhaps we’ll find something a little more exotic (but still not truly specific), e.g. anosmia and ageusia
  3. A generally benign and transitory illness
  4. In some rare cases, longer-lasting sequelae
  5. Possible severe complications in elderly, frail and particularly susceptible patients
  6. A mortality at an average age which corresponds to the average age of death of the general population

All this was known before the end of February 2020. Chinese scientists had diligently published the data,1 although their authoritarian government had reacted completely disproportionately, as most other governments would in its wake.
At the very latest, the presentation of the first Italian cohort of 2,003 “Corona deaths” on 12th March2 allowed only one rational conclusion: SARS-CoV-2 is not a killer virus.
The average age at which these deaths had occurred was 80.3 years, 75% were male – almost exactly the average age of death in the general Italian population. They had all – with two possible exceptions – been suffering from at least one serious co-morbidity which could also explain or contribute to the fatal outcome.

There were two further rational conclusions which should have been drawn from the fact – by now confirmed around the world – that people who die of – or “with” – COVID-19 leave the world at the same average age as everybody else:

  1. Although the epidemic may “squeeze” the deaths which would have occurred over a given year into a shorter timespan, COVID-19 cannot increase population mortality in the long run.
  2. Government measures in order “to save lives” from COVID-19 are bound to fail, as they would need to increase the current average life expectancy in a matter of weeks or months – an impossible undertaking.

The world’s response to SARS-CoV-2 has been anything but rational, however. A population driven into hysterical fear by the mass media demanded of its elected representatives or its authoritarian rulers to be protected from this particular common cold virus, and the politicians have obligingly imposed draconian measures. This has been, and still is, a terrible panic pandemic.

Emotional pictures of coffins, of patients on ventilators and shuffled into trains or on planes, absolute numbers of cases and deaths – these have been the mass media’s main daily offerings during the past few months. People, often very intelligent people, have been frightened to death, totally unable to look at the sober numbers and facts and put them into perspective.

Every day, more than 150,000 people die on this earth,3 half of them from cardiovascular disease and cancer. Most of us don’t keep daily count of all those deaths – it would be difficult to carry on with our normal lives otherwise.

Tuberculosis kills more people every year4 than will have been – rightly or wrongly – attributed to COVID-19 in 2020. Tuberculosis kills children, adolescents and young adults too – i.e. it does reduce life expectancy. COVID-19 does not.

For it is blatantly absurd to calculate “years of life lost” in the case of Corona-deaths: while it is true that a living octagenarian has a few years of statistical life expectancy left, a dead one has none. In the current Covid hysteria, this sort of nonsense does get published however5 – well, why not apply the method to just any cohort, or to the whole population? We will all have to forego some statistical life expectancy when we leave this world.

Of course, physicians and healthcare workers need to try their best and save every individual life. Of course, an infection with SARS-CoV-2 can cause serious and life-threatening complications in some individuals – but so can virtually any one of those ever-mutating respiratory tract viruses.6 This one is having a spectacular career only because the whole world has been following it with a specific PCR-test and has been putting it into the glaring public limelight. Most healthcare workers have been frightened too. How should they not be, when they are told that this is a totally new and terrible killer virus, that they need to isolate and register every suspected Covid case, that they have to wear protective gear and face masks when approaching these patients, when all they hear and see in the media is cases, deaths, coffins and mass graves? Historical examples of physicians and nurses sent into unfounded panic do exist7 – for the first time, we have now seen this happen on a global scale, as healthcare systems everywhere have become terribly tilted and corrupted towards fighting this one and only disease.

A (perhaps) hitherto unknown virus, originating from China where the authoritarian government – for whatever reason – imposes a temporary local quarantine, the rapidly available possibility of testing (though with a completely unvalidated procedure) and thus the illusion of being able to follow the virus’s spread around the world, a daily recording of cases and deaths in a manner reminiscent of a football league table,8 and of course virtually all the media riding on the hysteria with emotional pictures and stories – these were the main ingredients which made people panic and governments stumble into horribly disproportionate measures. A planned and orchestrated propaganda, bent on destroying freedom and democracy, could hardly have been any more effective.

None of the governments which imposed societal lockdowns and deprived their populations of most of their fundamental liberties seems to have done so on the basis of any kind of benefit/risk analysis. They all followed the advice of some very peculiar “experts” – mostly virologists and epidemiological model builders. They all seem to fear that they could be held to account for an exponential number of deaths resulting from this “new” disease. They all seem to however completely disregard the enormous damage which their measures are inflicting on their citizens, their societies and the world at large. None of them listened to – let alone stimulated – contrarian opinions from other experts, who often had to accept an appearance in alternative media outlets in order to make their views known. Hopefully, the cautionary tale of the current hysteria will serve as a lesson for the future. Science is not monolithic dogma, but continuous hypothesis testing and falsification. Supposedly scientific models predicting the future can be as awfully wrong as any oracle or prophecy.

Every political measure destined to “save lives” has a cost – in terms of both money and human lives.9 Given the age characteristics of people dying with COVID-19, there was, from the start, not much – if any – life which could be saved. The “war”  declared by our heads of state against this virus has been, and still is, an entirely futile fight against normal population mortality: We all die, and on average we die at our average age of death. It did not matter which measures governments took, the epidemic (like every common cold epidemic) ran its self-limiting course anyhow.10 Had we accepted the appearance of this mutated Coronavirus as we have so far accepted all the other newly mutated respiratory viruses every year, without testing for them, we could have carried on with our lives as before, and we would not have seen any unusual upswing in population mortality.

For the excess mortality which could be observed in some countries and areas during the months of March and April started generally exactly on the day on which governments imposed draconian measures against their peoples.11 Everywhere, the younger population was struck by increased mortality too – but hardly anybody in the 15-64 years age groups dies with COVID-19. Therefore, it has to be assumed that this tragic excess mortality is due to panic and lockdown.12

From www.euromomo.com: The excess mortality seen in these age groups starts with lockdowns and cannot be due to COVID-19

Every economist (and every politician?) worth his or her salt knows that economic growth, trade and prosperity are essential factors for a reduction in population mortality.13 In 2020, the world economy has been drastically diminished by government intervention. The consequences for Africa, for India, for all those areas of the globe which had just begun to escape regularly recurring mass famines are dreadful.14 Our political leaders will need to carry their heavy guilt, and there will hopefully be a day of reckoning.

Where are we going from here, where are our governments leading us? In Europe, the epidemic, if it ever was one, has run its course – independently of which measures were or were not taken by governments:

From https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/sweden/

However, the climate of fear and panic continues to be entertained – with numbers of “infected cases” – in reality (falsely?) positive tests, in people who are generally without any or with only very mild symptoms. Given that these tests are being expanded exponentially,15 and the distinction between an incidental positive PCR-test for SARS-CoV-2 and hospitalisation and/or death due to the illness COVID-19 is not being made,16 we have to expect that those numbers will increase too however. We can thus continue this ludicrous circus forever, we can also repeat it every year – we just need to develop a specific test for a newly mutated respiratory tract virus.

In the meantime, we are still restricted in our fundamental liberties, our economy is still strangled and becomes more state-controlled by the day, we still cannot gather freely in congresses, football stadiums and demonstrations, we still cannot travel normally, we still inhumanely isolate our old and fragile citizens, and – perhaps worst of all – we still impose social and psychological child abuse on our educational institutions.17 What is currently happening in the United Kingdom, in Australia, in some states of the USA – all those supposed beacons of human liberty – simply beggars belief.18

No wonder that the overt absurdity of it all (overt to anybody who cares to analyse the bare numbers) induces some people to look for an explanation beyond mere human hysteria and stupidity. Future history books will undoubtedly present the mask-wearing politicians of today as ridiculous clowns or as callous criminals – or both.

Thank goodness, more and more people around the world are waking up and beginning to challenge the Covid religion. Whether there be a method and plan to it or not – we must end this madness. Nothing less than human civilization and progress may be at stake.

Manfred Horst, MD, PhD, MBA is a Senior Consultant to pharma and biotech companies.

References

1 N. Chen et al.; Lancet (2020), 10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30211-7

2 https://www.today.it/video/coronavirus-brusaferro-iss-eta-media-dei-deceduti-e-80-3-bfdpm.askanews.html

3 https://www.visualcapitalist.com/how-many-people-die-each-day

4 Tuberculosis

5 For example: https://wellcomeopenresearch.org/articles/5-75

6 https://theconversation.com/can-you-die-from-a-common-cold-126241

7 For example, the hysteria around a false alarm of a pertussis epidemic in two American hospitals

8 https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

9 See, for example : Thomas Sowell, Basic Economics, 5th edition, p ; 586ff. : Saving lives

10 For an analysis and discussion of the uselessness of all non-pharmaceutical intervention by governments, see for example  a recent study by the US National Bureau of Economic Research : https://www.nber.org/papers/w27719.pdf

11 https://medium.com/@JohnPospichal/questions-for-lockdown-apologists-32a9bbf2e247

12 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/341832637_All-cause_mortality_during_COVID-19_No_plague_and_a_likely_signature_of_mass_homicide_by_government_response

13 See, for example : Anna, Hans and Ola Rosling : Factfulness, or again : Thomas Sowell, Basic Economics, 5th edition, p ; 586ff. : Saving lives

14 https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/hunger-could-be-more-deadly-than-coronavirus-in-poorer-countries/2020/05/14/32fd3f9a-8bd3-11ea-80df-d24b35a568ae_story.html

15 https://www.gov.uk/guidance/help-the-government-increase-coronavirus-covid-19-testing-capacity

16 https://www.bbc.com/news/health-53722711

17 http://www.oecd.org/coronavirus/policy-responses/combatting-covid-19-s-effect-on-children-2e1f3b2f/

18 https://www.aier.org/article/madness-in-melbourne/

Latest News

Tier Drops? No Chance

Matt Hancock unveiled updated tier allocations yesterday, following the first “review” of the tier system. MailOnline has the story.

Matt Hancock faced fury today as he plunged another swathe of Tory home counties heartlands into draconian coronavirus restrictions and denied a downgrade to Manchester, leaving 38 million people facing the toughest Tier 3.

Announcing the review of the tiers in the House of Commons, he said large parts of the South East will go into Tier 3, including Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Peterborough, the whole of Hertfordshire, Surrey with the exception of Waverley, Hastings and Rother on the Kent border of East Sussex, and Portsmouth, Gosport and Havant in Hampshire. He also dashed hopes that restrictions could be eased on Manchester, the Tees Valley and parts of the Midlands, in what local leaders branded a “kick in the teeth”. 

Mr Hancock did say Bristol and North Somerset will be moved down to Tier 2 in a glimmer of good news. Herefordshire is also being shifted to Tier 1 from midnight on Saturday morning. But it means around 38 million people, or 68% of the population, will now be subject to the top bracket – including the Queen at Windsor Castle. 

Writing for the Telegraph, Ross Clark explains why the outcome of the “review” is so frustrating for so many:

Residents of Dorset (45 cases per 100,000 in the week to December 11th) and South Hams (34), where cases are lower even than in Herefordshire (55), could be forgiven for feeling a bit cheated: they will stay in Tier 2. More aggrieved still are people in the Derbyshire Dales (72 cases per 100,000) who stay in Tier 3 even though their levels of infection suggest they ought to be a candidate for going down to Tier 2, or possibly Tier 1. Most cheated of all, though, are the residents of Copeland on the Cumbrian coast. They stay in Tier 2 in spite of having the lowest rate of new infections of any English district, just 18 per 100,000 in the week to December 12th…

The biggest losers from the tier reshuffle are those in rural areas of the Home Counties. In some places Hancock has separated rural districts from the surrounding council – he has spared most of East Sussex, for example, from the Tier 3 restrictions he has placed on Hasting and the Rother. Yet in other areas he hasn’t. The people of West Berkshire (174 cases per 100,000) and Windsor and Maidenhead (153) have been punished by their association with Reading (245)… Hertfordshire, too, has been treated harshly, the whole county going into Tier 3 when it is only the southern districts which seem to justify it. 

Manchester also seems to have been picked out for harsh treatment by being kept in Tier 3. That’s Mayor Andy Burnham’s punishment, perhaps, for resisting Tier 3 status before the second national lockdown. Then, of course, there is London, all of which was placed in Tier 3 on Monday, even though central boroughs such as Westminster (168) and Kensington and Chelsea (173) would seem to qualify them for Tier 2 status. 

Worth reading in full.

The results of the “review” provoked an immediate political backlash. Andy Burnham pointed out that Greater Manchester – still in Tier 3 – currently has lower rates than Liverpool and London did when they entered Tier 2.

https://twitter.com/AndyBurnhamGM/status/1339552059926990853

Steve Baker, the MP for Wycombe and deputy chair of the Covid Recovery Group, responded to his Wycombe constituency being moved up to Tier 3 saying:

Of course I know case rates in our town are above the average for England but I am disappointed that today the Health Secretary announced that Wycombe constituency has been moved from Tier 2 to Tier 3. We have no choice now but to comply with the measures and to work hard to look after one another. Overall, there is insufficient evidence to show this is a proportionate and effective response to the reality of the situation in Wycombe. The harm of these restrictions will be plain but it is not clear they will work or do more good than damage. That’s why I voted against the system in the Commons. After a full and damaging national lockdown, millions more people and businesses across the country are heading into tougher restrictions. The Government must urgently clarify what the criteria are for moving areas between, and especially down, the tiers. Finally, Government must now show how they will lift restrictions as the vaccine rolls out.

And William Wragg, MP for Hazel Grove, said:

https://twitter.com/William_Wragg/status/1339615506194677761

Keir Starmer responded to the “review” while visiting residents and flood victims in Doncaster:

“My concern about the Tier system is that it’s just not strong enough to control the virus and we’ve been seeing the numbers going in the wrong direction across the country in the last seven days in particular… There are many areas that are going to stay in Tier 3 and they will be asking themselves how on earth do we get out of this situation. I’m not going to pretend this is easy because we do need restrictions… but we had a tier system before lockdown, that didn’t work. We’re in another Tier System and its not doing the work that the Prime Minister promised it would do.

Justifying the outcome of the “review” in the House of Commons, Hancock said:

Mr Speaker, as we enter the coldest months we must be vigilant and keep this virus under control. Yesterday, 25,161 cases were reported and there are 18,038 people in hospital with coronavirus in the UK. We must keep supressing this virus. And this isn’t just a matter for Government or for this House. It’s a matter for every single person. And these are always the most difficult months for people’s health – and for the NHS…

At the weekend, we held an emergency review for London, Essex and parts of Hertfordshire where cases are accelerating fast. Yesterday, we held the first formal review. And I must report to the House that across the world cases are rising once more…

No one wants tougher restrictions any longer than necessary. But where they are necessary, we must put them in place to prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed and protect life. Mr Speaker, even in a normal year, this is the busiest time for the NHS. As Chris Hopson, the Chief Executive of NHS Providers, reminded us this morning: “controlling infection rates is about limiting patient harm”. And this is a moment when we act with caution…

Until the great endeavour of vaccine deployment reaches enough people to make this country safe, we must keep doing what it takes to protect our NHS – and protect those we love. That means all of us doing our bit. Following the rules and taking personal responsibility to help contain the spread of the virus so we can get through this safely, together.

The BBC’s Health Correspondent Nick Triggle, however, pointed out that it may not be necessary to wreck the economy to “protect our NHS” because it’s in no danger of being overwhelmed.

The latest hospital occupancy data has been published in England. It shows in the week ending December 13th, 89% of beds were occupied, leaving 10,500 empty beds. That means hospitals were actually busier this time last year, when 95% of beds were occupied. Ideally hospitals would operate at only 85% capacity, so the right beds are available when patients need them, but in recent years it has been consistently above that level.

They have just over 89,000 beds in total, down 8,000 on last year, reflecting the fact infection control and social distancing have meant some beds have been taken out of the system. The national figure does mask some real hotspots in some areas where hospitals are close to being full. But it does show there is some wriggle room overall. What we don’t know is at what cost this has come.

Stop Press: Why does the Health Secretary sit down like Woody in Toy Story when a human enters the room? Really quite odd.

https://twitter.com/christiancalgie/status/1339638240463228928

Furlough Forever

Alongside the review of the tier system, there was the ominous announcement yesterday that the furlough scheme will be extended until April. Does this mean 68% of the English population will be stuck in Tier 3 – or worse – until then? The Telegraph has more:

Rishi Sunak will extend the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for another month to support the economy while the Government rolls out its mass vaccination programme against COVID-19. The scheme will continue to pay 80pc of salaries, despite hints that this level might be reviewed in the new year. As of the end of October, 2.4 million jobs were still furloughed, with 1.4 million fully furloughed and just short of 1 million using the scheme on a part-time basis. Accommodation and food services accounted for the largest share at just over 600,000 as swathes of the hospitality industry remain under tight restrictions. The Treasury is also extending its business loan guarantee schemes until the end of March, making it easier for companies to borrow to get through the economic downturn.

More than £68 billion has been lent through the Treasury’s initiatives, with the Office for Budget Responsibility predicting about a third of the loans will not be repaid by firms. At the same time, the Bank of England said it would pump more cheap funds into banks to encourage SME lending, while keeping interest rates on hold at 0.1%.

Peter Cheese, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, said: “Setting out a clear plan to extend the CJRS to the end of June would boost business confidence and mitigate the numerous uncertainties firms are facing as a result of the pandemic, as well as any challenges they may face arising from the end of the Brexit transition and over the timing of economic recovery.”

Worth reading in full.

A disappointing announcement after the Chancellor said in an interview in the Christmas edition of the Spectator that he regards excessive Government borrowing as immoral.

Over his ten months in the job, the Chancellor has borrowed more than Gordon Brown did in nine years. When we mention this to him, he appears taken aback. “It’s the first time someone has put it to me that way,” he says, but adds that there are very different types of borrowers. And Chancellors. He is unusually interested in finance, and worked in a hedge fund during the 2008 crash. “I kind of sat there, watching things evaporate in front of my screen on a daily basis with very large sums of money just disappearing,” he says. The Covid crisis involved an element of déjà-vu. “It was like being back where I came from. Everyone was working night and day, around the clock. But I have never felt better supported…”

“It is clearly not sustainable to borrow at these levels. I don’t think morally, economically or politically it would be right,” he says. “Running a structural deficit years into the future, with debt rising? That’s not building up the resilience you need to deal with the future shock that will come along, and someone else will be sitting in my chair…”

This is Sunakism: a belief that it’s suicidal for any government to depend on high borrowing and low interest rates, because those rates could surge at any time.

Worth reading in full.

Blessed are the Prophylactic Givers for They Shall Inherit the Earth

A still from the film Songbird, a dystopian satire set in the Covid future

Long-standing Lockdown Sceptics contributor Freddie Attenborough, author of several brilliant pieces in the right-hand menu, has tried his hand at fiction and written an hilarious piece of dystopian satire in the same mould as 1984. It’s about a future in which the healthy remain locked down, the unhealthy are slaughtered and everyone lives under the thumb of a merciless tyrant called “the Sage”. Here are the opening few paragraphs:

“What did you do during the Great Reset, Grandad?” she squealed excitedly, the words tripping off her tongue in fluent Mandarin.

In the centre of the cage stood an ornate, candle-lit altar. Its upper panels had been cut in triptych form and each panel bore a letter from the old western alphabet: N, H and S. Behind it hung a gilded reredos depicting a coronavirus, its central protein spike outstretched, imparting the spark of life to the reclining Sage, whose fingers could be seen reaching out, but never quite touching, the spike. Running in European style, from left-to-right across the bottom of the image, was a slightly amended excerpt from the Sage’s translation of the New PCR-Testament. Embossed in a plain, puritanical font it read: “The Lord Coronavirus, He who delivered us from The Temptations, creating the Sage (Genesis 24:6.1).”

At its foot knelt an old man, evidently in prayer. Though he faced the altar, his eyes had strayed towards the impenetrable darkness beyond their cage. Out there lay the wilderness. The crucible of The Temptations. Hazy, half-forgotten memories still lingered. They came bubbling up now from that most dangerous of personal traitors, his unconscious. The greasy, voluptuous joy of it all. Unadulterated, untrammelled, rollicking, infective, glorious, filthy human life… biological proximity, dirt, penetration, tongues, sex, risk, sweat, uncertainty, sex… laughter… sex…

“Grandad!”

The sound of her voice dragged him back from the volcano’s edge. Shaking, dripping with sweat, appalled at this lapse into unholy reverie, he wrenched his dilated pupils back to the reredos and set to mumbling his prayers once more, now with renewed vigour.

As with all Freddie’s pieces, this one is worth reading in full.

“Draconian but Necessary”: Northern Ireland Locks Down

Following the five-day relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions agreed for the Christmas period there will be a six-week lockdown, according to the Northern Ireland Executive. Details from rte.

Northern Ireland will enter a six-week lockdown on 26th December, according to Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill. Under the agreement, reached by the Northern Ireland Executive, all non-essential retail will be closed.

An overnight curfew will be put in place, with people being told not to visit other households after 8pm. Health Minister Robin Swann said: “From 8pm to 6am from 26th December… we don’t see mixing in households except for the households themselves.

“For the essential businesses that are open for the rest of the six weeks – they will actually close over that time.

“That’s really to send a signal this is how serious this has to be taken, this is how much we’re asking of the people of Northern Ireland – when we’re curtailing people’s ability to meet in each other’s homes after 8pm.”

Ms O’Neill described the situation as “quite dire”: “It’s very clear from the positive cases we’re seeing every day that an urgent intervention was required.”

Stormont ministers agreed to close non-essential retail and contact services, as well as restricting the hospitality sector to takeaway only, from December 26th. No sporting events will be permitted, with an overarching message to the public to stay at home.

However, the festive bubbling arrangements will be permitted.

The first week of the intervention will include an 8pm curfew for essential shops. The measures are set to be reviewed after four weeks.

“There will also be financial supports put in place, so the current measures which we have had over previous restrictions will be rolled over to support businesses through this very challenging time,” Ms O’Neill said.

For those who had chosen to form a family bubble over the Christmas period, she said they would be allowed to go ahead. Ms O’Neill said Northern Ireland is in a “worse position” than it has been throughout the pandemic. “I think the health service would be completely crushed in January if we didn’t intervene now,” she added.

“Whilst this is draconian in many ways, it’s necessary, and this is about saving lives, this is about saving the health service and this is about taking some pressure off the health care staff,” she added. Ms O’Neill described what ministers have agreed as a “longer and deeper intervention”.

“That’s been a collective position from the executive that has been arrived at this evening,” she said.

Dog grooming will also be open, but car washes will be closed.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: John Swinney, Deputy First Minister for Scotland, has warned Scots that a New Year’s lockdown is a “possibility” in the face of a “rising tide of COVID-19”. The Scottish Cabinet will meet again on Tuesday to review the guidance and lockdown levels.

Stop Press 2: Downing Street has refused to rule out a third lockdown if placing 68% of the population in Tier 3 doesn’t stem the rising tide of “cases”.

School’s Out For Winter

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Oo8QzDHimQ

Having fought to keep schools open until yesterday, it looks like Gavin Williamsom will be delaying their opening in the New Year. MailOnline has the story.

Millions of secondary school pupils in England will have their return to school delayed by up to a week after the Christmas holidays amid a Covid crisis in the classroom. Downing Street confirmed that the planned January 4th and 5th restart would now be “staggered” with the use of online lessons, with full face-to-face learning beginning on January 11th.

It came as figures showed more than half of schools in England had coronavirus cases during the first two weeks of November’s lockdown and those aged 12-18 have the highest infection rate of any age group. 

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The start of the term won’t be delayed but what we are doing is asking secondary schools and colleges to operate a staggered return supported by full-time remote education during the first week of term with in-person teaching in full starting on January 11th. Students in exam year groups, vulnerable children, children of key workers, will attend school or college in person from the start of term as well as students in primary, special and alternative provision schools and colleges.”

The staggered return will coincide with an increase in on-site testing, according to the announcement. Schools and colleges will be able to establish testing to offer students two rapid tests three days apart, with positive results confirmed by a lab-based PCR test. 

Gavin Williamson said: “This targeted testing round will clamp down on the virus as students return from the Christmas break and help stop the spread of COVID-19 in the wider community. Building on the fantastic actions that schools and colleges have already taken to be as safe as possible, this additional testing will catch those who have the virus but are not showing symptoms to help schools and colleges stay in control of the virus throughout the spring term.”

What Williamson neglected to mention, perhaps because this hasn’t been fully worked out yet, is how much support teachers will get to carry out this “additional testing”. Will the Army be drafted in, as it was in Liverpool? Or will teachers be expected to carry out the tests themselves? Can’t see anything going wrong there!

Another question Williamson failed to address is why it was so essential for children to stay in school for the last week of this term, but inessential for them to be in school for the first week of next term?

The announcement comes, reports the BBC, as an analysis by Public Health England, the Office for National Statistics and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine shows that COVID-19 cases in schools reflect the rate of infection in the community, suggesting school closures are pointless.

COVID-19 cases in schools reflect virus levels in the local community, a study of 100 schools across England suggests. In tests on nearly 10,000 staff and pupils in November, 1.24% of pupils and 1.29% of staff tested positive for coronavirus in schools. The researchers suggest school closures have only a temporary effect on cases. And they add driving down infections in wider society is the best way to keep schools open and safe.

Dr Shamez Ladhani, the study’s chief investigator and a consultant at Public Health England, said: “While there is still more research to be done, these results appear to show that the rate of infection among students and staff attending school closely mirrors what’s happening outside the school gates.”

Data from PHE so far suggests infections in school year groups are being introduced from different sources rather than being spread between pupils in schools, but genetic analysis of virus strains is needed to confirm this. After schools reopened in the autumn, Dr Ladhani said the rate of infections in all year groups had been rising every week, with older pupils seeing the biggest increases.

He explained that lockdowns have a greater impact on adult infection rates rather than children’s, but there is often a delayed effect in children a week later than seen in adults. Closing schools would only have a “temporary effect”, Dr Ladhani added.

Human Rights Abuses Committed in 60 Countries

A man at court in Zimbabwe, who was arrested for participating in a human rights abuses protest. Rights defenders there say the government is using COVID-19 restrictions to suppress critics CREDIT: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP

Amnesty International has published a new report suggesting that law-enforcement agencies in 60 countries have breached human rights under the pretext of controlling the Pandemic. The Telegraph has the story:

The abuses include accounts of people being shot for breaking curfew, the violent suppression of protests, arbitrary arrests, and assaults on individuals not wearing masks – in countries from Angola to Chechnya.

In some cases, the abuses actually may have worsened the impact of COVID-19, for example by detaining people in crowded, unsanitary jails, the report added. 

“The horrific abuses committed on the pretext of fighting COVID-19 include Angolan police shooting a teenage boy in the face for allegedly breaking curfew, and police in El Salvador shooting a man in the legs after he went out to buy food,” said Patrick Wilcken, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Global Issues Programme.

While the role of law-enforcement at this moment is vital to protect people’s health and lives, the over reliance on coercive measures to enforce public health restrictions is making things worse. The profound impact of the pandemic on people’s lives compounds the need for policing to be carried out with full respect for human rights,” he added.

The report, COVID-19 Crackdowns: Police Abuse and the Global Pandemic, also found that 85,000 people in the Dominican Republic were detained for not complying with curfews in just three months, from May – July.

In Iran, several were killed and injured when security forces reportedly used live ammunition and tear gas to suppress protests over the COVID-19 risk in prisons.

In the first five days of a curfew in Kenya earlier this year, seven people were killed and 16 hospitalised “as a result of excessive police operations”, according to the report.

In Chechnya, video footage showed police assaulting and kicking a man for not wearing a mask, and in South Africa, police fired rubber bullets at people “loitering” on the streets on the first day of lockdown.

In Turkey, 510 were reportedly detained for questioning for “sharing provocative coronavirus posts” on social media.

Worth reading in full.

The Amnesty International Report is available here.

A Lockdown Funeral

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

One of the Lockdown Sceptics moderators attended a funeral earlier this week. Here’s her account of it.

I attended a funeral of a friend who died in a road traffic accident. It was held in a well known town about an hour from London. The county is in Tier 2 but adjacent to Tier 3 areas – or was then. It’s since been placed in Tier 3. When we arrived at the crematorium, rather early, the only other people in the car park were guests at our function. It was very quiet in the surrounding cemetery, which we thought was strange in the middle of a deadly pandemic supposedly killing thousands and thousands. There was no funeral booked that day after ours either.

Around 100 people attended, but only close family were allowed inside the Chapel. Chairs were set out in spaces so only those from the same household could sit together. This was in spite most of the guests in the Chapel having arrived together in groups in their cars. It made the Chapel look very stark and empty. We had a family funeral there once before so we’re able to compare. The waiting room outside the Chapel was closed. Luckily, the rain held off. Plenty of the close family were left outside after 30 were admitted into the Chapel.

There was a live link so people could watch proceedings on their phones if they were not allowed in. Only a tiny minority of the total guests were masked and people seemed to think that on this occasion hugs were more needed than social distancing. The watchers outside congregated in the covered courtyard where the flowers were laid out. There was quite a lot of mingling but on the whole people stayed in their family groups. Several of the watchers noted an elderly relative crying on her own in the Chapel and mentioned how it was a disgrace that people were being told to keep apart at a time when human contact would be such a comfort. Even the few masked people were not fussy about it. One shared her phone with me so I could watch. The service was quite long, nearly an hour, but no hymns were allowed, just recorded music in between eulogies. 

There were lots of very beautiful flowers in bright colours which previously would have all been taken to local hospitals and homes if not removed by the family. Now they just get thrown away in case they are “contaminated”. I thought this was a great shame. How much of a risk could they be? One of the quests, whom I have met before, is a nurse of 30 years experience at a major London hospital. Currently in A&E, but having considerable skills, she can be deployed to several different departments. She said her hospital was busy during the first wave but is now probably quieter than usual for the time of year. Less people going out means less stabbings apparently!

Many of the guests remarked on the lack of activity at the cemetery considering how many excess deaths there are supposed to be. Some were quite surprised by this. There was a wake at a local pub, which was as normal as those things are these days. I would say certainly more than 30 in attendance at that. Overall, the feeling seemed to be that restrictions on funerals were out of order. I think several of the guests were quite surprised to reach this conclusion, having been quite accepting of the rules until they encountered the reality of them. 

Bob Moran Wins ‘Covid Cartoon of the Year’.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XmWLOso-DQ8&feature=youtu.be

The results of the Ellwood Atfield ‘Political Cartoon of the Year’ awards are in and Bob Moran won ‘Covid Cartoon of the Year’. Well done Bob! And a hat-tip to the Free Speech Union who intervened when Bob was initially prevented from entering by the competition’s organiser, a bug-eyed lockdown enthusiast. After the FSU had a quiet word with the sponsors, who were unaware of the ban, Bob was allowed to compete.

Watch his moving acceptance speech here, and take a look at the other winning entries here. His cartoon in today’s Telegraph is a cracker too!

Toby’s Christmas Story in the Spectator

Toby has a longer-than-usual column in the Spectator‘s Christmas triple issue. It’s about a curious episode in the history of his wife’s family.

As I gaze at my four children on Christmas morning, clambering on to the bed with their stockings, I will think of one particular person to whom, in a roundabout way, they owe their lives. He was a colonel in the first world war and, had it not been for his generosity, my children, their mother, her brothers and sisters, their children, their aunts, uncles and cousins – the entire Bondy clan, in fact – would not exist.

The story begins in 1918, as the conflict was nearing its end. Karel Bondy, my wife’s paternal grandfather, was a young Czech officer in the Austro-Hungarian army who had miraculously survived heavy fighting in Albania. He was on his way back to barracks from the front line one evening when he encountered a drunk German colonel, slumped in the saddle of his horse. Karel did the decent thing and asked the officer if he could be of any assistance. Turned out he was lost. Could Karel help him find his quarters? Karel took the horse’s bridle and steered the colonel to his tent.

When they arrived, Karel tried to take his leave but the Oberst wouldn’t hear of it. He sat Karel down and insisted they have a drink together. One drink led to another, and at the end of the night the colonel decided to reward Karel for his act of kindness. He reached for a small wooden box under his bed, pulled out an Iron Cross and pinned it to Karel’s tunic.

“This is for you, in recognition of your outstanding gallantry,” he said.

Naturally, Karel protested, but to no avail. Not only did the colonel stop him giving it back, he reached into the box again and pulled out a certificate which he completed and handed to him.

“Now it’s official,” he said.

After the war ended, placed the Iron Cross in his bottom draw and thought nothing more about it. He established a successful legal practice in Prague, got married and had two boys. But it proved a life-saver after the Nazi’s invaded and he and his family had to leave in a hurry. Karel applied for exit visas so they could leave for England, but these could only be issued if the Nazis rubber-stamped them and one day the Bondy family received a visit from the Gestapo.

Karel was accused of being a British spy, and he and Frania looked on in horror as the officers ransacked their home looking for secret documents. They broke precious knick-knacks, smashed the children’s toys and started emptying the contents of their drawers on the floor. Karel thought he and his family were done for.

Then, what should spill out of the bottom drawer of his desk but the envelope containing the Iron Cross. One Gestapo officer tore it open and discovered the medal.

“How did you get this?” he demanded.

“I was given it for gallantry during the first world war,” Karel replied.

The officer didn’t believe him – how could a Jew have been awarded such a high distinction? – but Karel told him to examine the certificate and, sure enough, there was his name in black ink. The officer summoned his colleague over and together they marvelled at the medal that they both longed for.

“How much do you want for it?” one of them demanded.

At this point, Karel had to think on his feet. Should he use the Iron Cross to bribe them to authorise the exit visas?

“I’m sorry,” he said, striding over and taking the medal back. “I cannot part with it. I was proud to serve my country and I accepted that on behalf of the men in my unit, many of whom were not as fortunate as I. Some things in life just aren’t for sale.”

This speech impressed the Gestapo officers – they were clearly dealing with a bona fide war hero. Their demeanour began to change and they even made a half-hearted effort to clean up the mess they’d made. They explained, almost apologetically, that there were British spies in Prague and they were just doing their job. Rubber stamps and ink pads were quickly produced and the exit documents authorised.

Worth reading in full.

Round-up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Four today: “Whose Turn Is It Now” by Robert Childs, “Who Will Rise Up” by Southland Worship, “Do You Hear What I Hear” by Orla Fallon, “You Can’t Stop Christmas (Not This Year)” by Dalígalä

Love in the Time of Covid

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

Sharing Stories

Some of you have asked how to link to particular stories on Lockdown Sceptics so you can share it. To do that, click on the headline of a particular story and a link symbol will appear on the right-hand side of the headline. Click on the link and the URL of your page will switch to the URL of that particular story. You can then copy that URL and either email it to your friends or post it on social media. Please do share the stories.

Social Media Accounts

You can follow Lockdown Sceptics on our social media accounts which are updated throughout the day. To follow us on Facebook, click here; to follow us on Twitter, click here; to follow us on Instagram, click here; to follow us on Parler, click here; and to follow us on MeWe, click here.

Woke Gobbledegook

The Defence of Rorke’s Drift by Lady Butler

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, a report from the Telegraph on the Royal Collection’s new labelling of the 1880 painting ‘The Defence of Rorke’s Drift’:

Fewer than 200 British soldiers held off 3,000 Zulu warriors at the Rorke’s Drift mission in 1879 and earned 11 Victoria Crosses for the defence, which has since been immortalised on screen. A Royal Collection painting hanging in St James’s Palace which depicts the battle has now been relabelled to reflect connections to “colonialism and violence”.

It is one of 62 royally-owned artworks reviewed to unearth and present links to empire and slavery as part of a project launched in August following Black Lives Matter protests. Depictions of ­Winston Churchill’s ancestor, the Duke of Marlborough, and philosopher John Locke are among those critiqued for links to the slave trade.

The move to amend the 1880 work ‘The Defence of Rorke’s Drift’ has been ­criticised by historians for branding ­British defenders as imperialist when they were simply fighting for survival.

New display information for the work by 19th Century artist Lady Butler, ­commissioned by Queen Victoria, states the painting is “connected to colonialism and imperialism”.

The oil painting depicts a handful of the 150 or so troops who defended Rorke’s Drift, including Lieutenant Chard and Lieutenant Bromhead, played by Stanley Baker and Sir Michael Caine in the 1964 film Zulu.

Dr Spencer Jones, a military historian and lecturer, has criticised the decision, saying the painting’s “connection to colonialism and imperialism seems superfluous”. He added: “Although the war was an imperial struggle, British soldiers and Zulu warriors at Rorke’s Drift fought for survival rather than abstract ideas of imperialism. There was tremendous courage and determination shown by both sides.”

A spokesman for the Royal Collection said the governing Trust “has an ongoing programme of activities to research, ­display, loan and publish detailed records of objects in the Royal Collection, in order for a wide range of audiences to learn about the Collection and its history”.

Worth reading in full.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

We’ve created a one-stop shop 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 (takes a while to arrive). The Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. You can get a “Hidden Disability” tag from ebay here and an “exempt” card with lanyard for just £1.99 from Etsy here. And, finally, if you feel obliged to wear a mask but want to signal your disapproval of having to do so, you can get a “sexy world” mask with the Swedish flag on it here.

Don’t forget to sign the petition on the UK Government’s petitions website calling for an end to mandatory face masks in shops here.

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

Another reader has helpfully produced an Android App “Face Off” which displays the message “I am exempt from wearing a face mask message”. It is only 99p and is available here.

If you’re a shop owner and you want to let your customers know you will not be insisting on face masks or asking them what their reasons for exemption are, you can download a friendly sign to stick in your window here.

And here’s an excellent piece about the ineffectiveness of masks by a Roger W. Koops, who has a doctorate in organic chemistry. See also the Swiss Doctor’s thorough review of the scientific evidence here.

Stop Press: The World Health Organisation’s Europe Office has released new guidance recommending the use of masks at social gatherings inside homes with friends and families over the festive season. Warning that “COVID-19 transmission across the European Region remains widespread and intense,” and that “there is a high risk of further resurgence in the first weeks and months of 2021”, the guidance states:

Indoor gatherings, even smaller ones, can be especially risky because they bring together groups of people, young and old, from different households, who may not all be adhering to the same infection prevention measures. Gatherings should be held outside if possible, and participants should wear masks and maintain physical distancing. If held indoors, limiting group size and ensuring good ventilation to reduce exposure risk are key.

It may feel awkward to wear masks and practise physical distancing when around friends and family, but doing so contributes significantly to ensuring that everyone remains safe and healthy.

MailOnline points out that this advice comes despite the WHO’s guidance on mask use issued on December 1st:

At present there is only limited and inconsistent scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of masking of healthy people in the community to prevent infection with respiratory viruses, including SARS-CoV-2.

The Great Barrington Declaration

Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya

The Great Barrington Declaration, a petition started by Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya calling for a strategy of “Focused Protection” (protect the elderly and the vulnerable and let everyone else get on with life), was launched in October and the lockdown zealots have been doing their best to discredit it ever since. If you googled it a week after launch, the top hits were three smear pieces from the Guardian, including: “Herd immunity letter signed by fake experts including ‘Dr Johnny Bananas’.” (Freddie Sayers at UnHerd warned us about this the day before it appeared.) On the bright side, Google UK has stopped shadow banning it, so the actual Declaration now tops the search results – and Toby’s Spectator piece about the attempt to suppress it is among the top hits – although discussion of it has been censored by Reddit. The reason the zealots hate it, of course, is that it gives the lie to their claim that “the science” only supports their strategy. These three scientists are every bit as eminent – more eminent – than the pro-lockdown fanatics so expect no let up in the attacks. (Wikipedia has also done a smear job.)

You can find it here. Please sign it. Now over three quarters of a million signatures.

Update: The authors of the GDB have expanded the FAQs to deal with some of the arguments and smears that have been made against their proposal. Worth reading in full.

Update 2: Many of the signatories of the Great Barrington Declaration are involved with new UK anti-lockdown campaign Recovery. Find out more and join here.

Update 3: You can watch Sunetra Gupta set out the case for “Focused Protection” here and Jay Bhattacharya make it here.

Update 4: The three GBD authors plus Prof Carl Heneghan of CEBM have launched a new website collateralglobal.org, “a global repository for research into the collateral effects of the COVID-19 lockdown measures”. Follow Collateral Global on Twitter here.

Judicial Reviews Against the Government

There are now so many JRs being brought against the Government and its ministers, we thought we’d include them all in one place down here.

First, there’s the Simon Dolan case. You can see all the latest updates and contribute to that cause here. Alas, he’s now reached the end of the road, with the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear his appeal. Dolan has no regrets. “We forced SAGE to produce its minutes, got the Government to concede it had not lawfully shut schools, and lit the fire on scrutinizing data and information,” he says. “We also believe our findings and evidence, while not considered properly by the judges, will be of use in the inevitable public inquires which will follow and will help history judge the PM, Matt Hancock and their advisers in the light that they deserve.”

Then there’s the Robin Tilbrook case. You can read about that and contribute here.

Then there’s John’s Campaign which is focused specifically on care homes. Find out more about that here.

There’s the GoodLawProject’s Judicial Review of the Government’s award of lucrative PPE contracts to various private companies. You can find out more about that here and contribute to the crowdfunder here.

The Night Time Industries Association has instructed lawyers to JR any further restrictions on restaurants, pubs and bars.

And last but not least there’s the Free Speech Union‘s challenge to Ofcom over its ‘coronavirus guidance’. A High Court judge refused permission for the FSU’s judicial review last week, but the FSU may appeal the decision. Check here for updates.

Samaritans

If you are struggling to cope, please call Samaritans for free on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.org or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch. Samaritans is available round the clock, every single day of the year, providing a safe place for anyone struggling to cope, whoever they are, however they feel, whatever life has done to them.

Quotation Corner

We know they are lying. They know they are lying, They know that we know they are lying. We know that they know that we know they are lying. And still they continue to lie.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.

Mark Twain

Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.

Charles Mackay

They who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Benjamin Franklin

To do evil a human being must first of all believe that what he’s doing is good, or else that it’s a well-considered act in conformity with natural law. Fortunately, it is in the nature of the human being to seek a justification for his actions…

Ideology – that is what gives the evildoing its long-sought justification and gives the evildoer the necessary steadfastness and determination.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you never should trust experts. If you believe the doctors, nothing is wholesome: if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent: if you believe the soldiers, nothing is safe. They all require to have their strong wine diluted by a very large admixture of insipid common sense.

Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury

Nothing would be more fatal than for the Government of States to get into the hands of experts. Expert knowledge is limited knowledge and the unlimited ignorance of the plain man, who knows where it hurts, is a safer guide than any rigorous direction of a specialist.

Sir Winston Churchill

If it disagrees with experiment, it’s wrong. In that simple statement is the key to science.

Richard Feynman

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

C.S. Lewis

The welfare of humanity is always the alibi of tyrants.

Albert Camus

We’ve arranged a global civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.

Carl Sagan

Political language – and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists – is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

George Orwell

The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.

Marcus Aurelius

Necessity is the plea for every restriction of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.

William Pitt the Younger

If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.

Joseph Goebbels (attributed)

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

I have always strenuously supported the right of every man to his own opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine. He who denies to another this right, makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it.

Thomas Paine

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the past 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. Doing these daily updates is hard work (although we have help from lots of people, mainly in the form of readers sending us stories and links). If you feel like donating, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links we should include in future updates, email us here. (Don’t assume we’ll pick them up in the comments.)

And Finally…

Credit: Rose Ryan

The Lab Leak Theory: Who Suppressed It? Who Uncovered It? And What Should We Do About It?

by Cephas Alain

A crucial, and often overlooked, event in the story of the pandemic and its associated narratives, including that of the supposed natural origin of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, was the Press Conference of WHO-China Joint Mission on COVID-19 Epidemic Prevention and Control in China. It took place at The Presidential Hotel in Beijing on the evening of February 24th 2020. The transcript of Press Conference and the forty-page Report issued by the Joint Mission on the same date The China Report are available as follows:

The WHO Press Conference Transcript: February 24th 2020
The Report of the WHO-China Joint Mission on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) (The China Report)

The WHO Press Conference was briefed by the Team Leaders of the Joint Mission: Dr. Bruce Aylward (a former Assistant Director-General of the WHO and senior advisor to WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus) and Dr. Liang Wannian (Head of Expert Panel of COVID-19 Response of China National Health Commission (NHC).

Dr Wannian suggested that the source of the outbreak “…according to the currently available data in China, bats may be its host, and pangolin may also be one of the intermediate hosts [i.e., between bats and humans] of this virus”. The China Report added that: “At some point early in the outbreak, some cases generated human-to-human transmission chains that seeded the subsequent community outbreak prior to the implementation of the comprehensive control measures that were rolled out in Wuhan.” (China Report page 10) The ‘best guess’ of the WHO Team was therefore that the SARS-CoV-2 virus originated in bats which jumped species to infect humans, possibly via pangolins.

The WHO website, last updated on July 20th 2020, provides a basic explanation of the process, termed zoonosis. The WHO website states: “A zoonosis is an infectious disease that has jumped from a non-human animal to humans. Zoonotic pathogens may be bacterial, viral or parasitic, or may involve unconventional agents and can spread to humans through direct contact or through food, water or the environment.”

It adds that “Zoonoses comprise a large percentage of all newly identified infectious diseases as well as many existing ones. Some diseases, such as HIV, begin as a zoonosis but later mutate into human-only strains. Other zoonoses can cause recurring disease outbreaks, such as Ebola virus disease and salmonellosis. Still others, such as the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, have the potential to cause global pandemics”. The WHO website leaves little room for any doubt that SARS-CoV-2 is, as a matter of fact, the product of natural processes.

The finger for the transmission of the virus from animals to humans was initially pointed at the Wuhan South China Seafood Market, a so-called ‘wet market’. Wet markets typically involve open-air stalls selling fresh meat, such as chicken, as well as fish, seafood, fruit, and vegetables. They are common in many parts of China and often involve animals being killed on site. The wet market in Wuhan also sold wild animals and their meat. including porcupines, snakes and beavers although it was not a ‘wildlife market’. (The Guardian April 16th 2020 – “What is a wet market?”)

Especially if animals are stressed or ill and kept in cramped and unhygienic conditions pathogens, organisms causing diseases such as viruses, can potentially mutate becoming more transmissible between species and then jump to humans. A number of people linked to the market fell ill early in the pandemic and traces of the SARS-CoV-2 virus were found there. As a result it was identified by the Chinese authorities as the most likely ground zero for the zoonotic transmission of the virus to humans.

Controversy quickly arose as to whether or not there had, in fact, been an accidental release of a virus from the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan which was known to be carrying out research into coronaviruses. Leaks and other mishaps at laboratories are not uncommon for example: “From Jan. 1st, 2015, through June 1st, 2020, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill reported 28 lab incidents involving genetically engineered organisms to safety officials at the National Institutes of Health” And “Six of the incidents involved various types of lab-created coronaviruses. Many were engineered to allow the study of the virus in mice”. (ProRepublica – “Here Are Six Accidents UNC Researchers Had With Lab-Created Coronaviruses” – August 17th 2020). Such research is often carried out with the avowed aim of seeking to ‘stay one step ahead’ of viruses that might potentially create pandemics with a view to spotting relevant changes and developing vaccines quickly. It is often referred to as ‘gain of function’ research and that can involve enhancing the ability of a virus to infect humans. SARS and MERS were both coronaviruses that had jumped from their original animal hosts to infect humans, as might also have the virus responsible for Russian Flu in 1890. Therefore, the interest taken by researchers in coronaviruses was perfectly understandable although, the risks of gain of function experimentation and the infection of humans are both obvious and severe.

When Dr Wannian spoke on February 24th 2020 that was shortly after strong statements had already been made in support of a natural source for the outbreak:

  • A strongly worded letter, from a group of public health scientists, published in The Lancet on February 18th 2020, declared: “We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin”. It added that “Scientists from multiple countries have published and analysed genomes of the causative agent… and they overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife, as have so many other emerging pathogens”. The letter also issued an invitation or rallying cry encouraging scientists to “Stand with our colleagues on the frontline!” (Calisher et al.Statement in support of the scientists, public health professionals, and medical professionals of China combatting COVID-19”. There were subsequent allegations that the letter in the Lancet was unsupported by the evidence and motivated, at least in part, by serious but unstated conflicts of interest. (US Right to Know – Updated February 15th 2021 – EcoHealth Alliance orchestrated key scientists’ statement on “natural origin” of SARS-CoV-2.)
  • A letter, published in Nature Medicine online on March 17th 2020, stated in its opening paragraph that “Our analyses clearly show that SARS-CoV-2 is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus”. “Is not’” is a strong expression. However, the letter goes on to say variously: “It is improbable that SARS-CoV-2 emerged through laboratory manipulation of a related SARS-CoV-like coronavirus”. And “…it is currently impossible to prove or disprove the other theories of its origin described here. However, we do not believe that any type of laboratory-based scenario is plausible”. The article is technically complex but, in essence it remained speculative. There is a world of difference between the certainty of an “is not” and the uncertainties comprised within an “improbable” and an “impossible to disprove” and a heavily value-laden “we do not believe”. (Andersen et al. Nature Medicine – April 2020 “The Proximal Origin of SARS-CoV-2”.)

These two articles set the tone of the ‘official line’ on what became known as the lab leak hypothesis. Social media monopolies were particularly active from an early stage in suppressing any discussion of the lab leak hypothesis, even by reputable news outlets. “Steven W. Mosher only called it [the lab leak hypothesis] a possibility in these [New York Post] pages on Feb. 23rd, 2020. But Facebook quickly moved to suppress the column as ‘False Information — and wouldn’t unblock it until April 17’.” (New York Post – “Facebook’s COVID coverup” – January 5th 2021.) It was to be late May 2021 by the time Facebook finally confirmed that: “In light of ongoing investigations into the origin of COVID-19 and in consultation with public health experts, we will no longer remove the claim that COVID-19 is man-made from our apps” (Politico – “Facebook no longer treating ‘man-made’ Covid as a crackpot idea” May 26th 2021.)

The US Department of State announced in January 2021 that “For more than a year, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has systematically prevented a transparent and thorough investigation of the COVID-19 pandemic’s origin, choosing instead to devote enormous resources to deceit and disinformation”. The State Department indicated there had been research at the lab experimenting with the bat coronavirus RaTG13 “…under conditions that increased the risk for accidental and potentially unwitting exposure” was in some way responsible (“Fact Sheet: Activity at the Wuhan Institute of Virology”.) This was a set of very serious allegations and the statement went straight into the official archive once the Biden administration took office.

A WHO Team, which visited Wuhan in early 2021, concluded that the source of the virus being a lab leak was “extremely unlikely”. (“WHO-convened Global Study of Origins of SARS-CoV-2: China Part Joint WHO-China Study January 14th, February 10th 2021 Joint Report”.) This was widely reported. (“WHO team says theory Covid began in Wuhan lab ‘extremely unlikely’” – The Guardian – February 9th 2021.) However, it was not the end of the story as “Dr Peter Ben Embarek, who led the WHO team in Wuhan, said they didn’t get ‘hard facts or detailed data’ from the Chinese lab” and an accident could not therefore be ruled out. In short, the Chinese, who had carefully constrained the expert’s investigations, had not been able to provide any evidence to support their assertion that SARS-CoV-2 had natural origins. This was quite different to the position surrounding the emergence of both the earlier SARS and MERS viruses. (“Covid MAY have leaked from Wuhan lab, says WHO lead investigator in astonishing U-turn… now he’s left China” – The Sun – March 4th 2021.)

On March 30th 2021 the WHO issued a News Release stating that, despite its own report: “As far as WHO is concerned, all hypotheses remain on the table. This report is a very important beginning, but it is not the end. We have not yet found the source of the virus, and we must continue to follow the science and leave no stone unturned as we do,” said [WHO Director General] Dr Tedros. “Finding the origin of a virus takes time and we owe it to the world to find the source so we can collectively take steps to reduce the risk of this happening again. No single research trip can provide all the answers”. (WHO News Release – “WHO calls for further studies, data on origin of SARS-CoV-2 virus, reiterates that all hypotheses remain open” – March 30th 2021.)

The absence of evidence gradually appeared to undermine the case for the natural origins of SARS-CoV-2. It became reminiscent of a famous Sherlock Holmes plot-line – “The curious incident of the dog in the night-time” Holmes states: “I had grasped the significance of the silence of the dog, for one true inference invariably suggests others…” (“The Adventure of Silver Blaze” from The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle – 1892.) “Chinese researchers… failed to find either the original bat population, or the intermediate species to which SARS2 might have jumped, or any serological evidence that any Chinese population, including that of Wuhan, had ever been exposed to the virus prior to December 2019. Natural emergence remained a conjecture which, however plausible to begin with, had gained not a shred of supporting evidence in over a year”. (Nicholas Wade – The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.)

But there was more, which Nicholas Wade alerted the world to in his ground-breaking article on the subject of May 5th 2021. The article was first published on the Medium blog site before being accepted for publication by the, distinctly non-virology-orientated, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Physicists have a wry sense of humour and a reputation for exploding consensus. In any event Wade alleged that certain grant money funding the EcoHealth Alliance by the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) was used in China because work was effectively sub-contracted to the Wuhan laboratory. Such “…grant proposals… are a matter of public record and specify exactly what she [the researcher involved in Wuhan] planned to do with the money”. Wade explains that “…in non-technical language… Shi [the researcher in Wuhan] set out to create novel coronaviruses with the highest possible infectivity for human cells”. He added that “It cannot yet be stated that Shi did or did not generate SARS2 in her lab because her records have been sealed, but it seems she was certainly on the right track to have done so”.

Wade’s article also refers to comments by Richard Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University, referred to as a “leading expert on biosafety” stating: “…the Wuhan Institute of Virology was systematically constructing novel chimeric coronaviruses and was assessing their ability to infect human cells and human-ACE2-expressing mice”. A chimeric virus is a “…new hybrid microorganism created by joining nucleic acid fragments from two or more different microorganisms in which each of at least two of the fragments contain essential genes necessary for replication”. (“Chimera as an Additional Naming Convention for Live Recombinant Products” – Center for Veterinary Biologics – U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service – December 8th 2005.) Such a new organism would not leave traces of pre-existence within a bat population or other animal population prior to its appearance in humans. It would simply do the job of infecting humans which it was designed to do from the outset.

Wade also referred to comments made by Peter Daszak of EcoHealth Alliance in an interview on December 9th 2019, during which he explained that researchers at the Wuhan laboratory have been “reprogramming the spike protein and generating chimeric coronaviruses capable of infecting humanized mice”. He quotes Daszak as saying “Some of them get into human cells in the lab, some of them can cause SARS disease in humanized mice models and are untreatable with therapeutic monoclonals and you can’t vaccinate against them with a vaccine. So, these are a clear and present danger…”. (Interview of Peter Daszak December 9th 2019.) Peter Daszak was one of the signatories of the Lancet letter debunking the idea of an accidental release of the SARS-CoV-2 virus from the Wuhan institute. Wades’ article provided various scenarios for a natural or engineered jump of SARS-CoV-2 from bats to humans, concluding that the weight of the evidence favoured a leak from the Wuhan institute, although any smoking gun will be hidden within its records which are probably unlikely to be released.

If his thesis is ultimately found to be correct Wade suggested that the responsibility primarily lies with the following and in the stated order:

  1. Chinese virologists. They must accept responsibility for performing potentially highly dangerous gain-of-function experiments in sub-optimal safety conditions. He suggests that even well-trained virologists following international rules of viral containment could and should make their own risk assessments.
  1. Chinese authorities. Wade asserts that “China’s central authorities [all aspects of which are led by the Chinese Communist Party] did not generate SARS2 but they sure did their utmost to conceal the nature of the tragedy and China’s responsibility for it”. In particular Wade alleges:
    1. They suppressed all records at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and closed down its virus databases.
    2. They released a trickle of information, much of which may have been outright false or designed to misdirect and mislead.
    3. They did their best to manipulate the WHO’s inquiry into the virus’s origins, and led the commission’s members on a fruitless run-around.
    4. “…they have proved far more interested in deflecting blame than in taking the steps necessary to prevent a second pandemic”.
  1. The worldwide community of virologists. They must accept responsibility according to Wade because they are a relatively small group of experts who share their knowledge and “…have common interests in seeking funds from governments [to maintain their research and their livelihoods as virologists] and in not being overburdened with safety regulations [as that might make their chosen work more expensive, difficult and probably less likely to happen]”. As far as gain-of-function research goes they know the risks better than anyone else but nevertheless still “…lobbied against the moratorium imposed on [US] Federal funding for gain-of-function research in 2014, and it was raised in 2017”. Wade is clear that “The benefits of the research in preventing future epidemics have so far been nil, the risks vast”. And “Whether or not SARS2 escaped from a lab, virologists around the world have been playing with fire”. He also unfavourably compares them to other more safety conscious scientists and is highly critical of their decision of many to “…deride lab escape as a conspiracy theory, and others say nothing” to avoid what he calls “journalists’ curiosity and the public’s wrath”. Wade concludes under this head of responsibility that they should no longer be allowed to regulate themselves.
  1. The US role in funding the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The grant received by EcoHealth Alliance adopted “…a questionable policy to farm out high-risk research to foreign labs using minimal safety precautions. And if the SARS2 virus did indeed escape from the Wuhan institute, then the NIH will find itself in the terrible position of having funded a disastrous experiment that led to the death of more than 3 million worldwide, including more than half a million of its own citizens”. The responsibility of the NIAID and NIH was enhanced “…because for the first three years of the grant to EcoHealth Alliance there was a moratorium on funding gain-of-function research”. And it was then replaced by a system, the Potential Pandemic Pathogens Control and Oversight (P3CO) Framework, requiring them to report for review any dangerous gain-of-function work they wished to fund”. The moratorium specifically prohibited funding for gain-of-function increasing the ability of the flu, MERS or SARS viruses to cause damage through infection. But the rules granted that “[a]n exception from the research pause may be obtained if the head of the USG funding agency determines that the research is urgently necessary to protect the public health or national security”. Enter stage right the director of the NIAID, Anthony Fauci, or the director of the NIH, Francis Collins, or both? It appears that the exemption was invoked to maintain funding during the moratorium and to avoid notifying the new reporting system of the research.

During a Senate hearing on May 11th 2021 Dr Fauci claimed that no gain of function research was being funded in Wuhan. At the hearing Senator Rand Paul stated: “Juicing up super viruses is not new. Scientists in the U.S. have long known how to mutate animal viruses to infect humans. For years, Dr. Ralph Baric, a virologist in the U.S., has been collaborating with Doctor Shi Zhengli of the Wuhan Virology Institute, sharing his discoveries about how to create super viruses. This gain-of-function research has been funded by the NIH”. “…Dr. Fauci, do you still support funding of the NIH funding of the lab in Wuhan?” Dr Fauci responded: “Senator Paul, with all due respect, you are entirely and completely incorrect that the NIH has not never and does not now fund gain-of-function research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology”. This may be a matter of definition. For instance, EcoHealth Alliance, “…believes that the term gain-of-function applies only to enhancements of viruses that infect humans, not to animal viruses”. That is a potentially controversial perspective. (Washington Post – “Fact-checking the Paul-Fauci flap over Wuhan lab funding” – May 18th 2021.)

Shortly after Wade’s article was published on May 5th 2021, Dr Rochelle Walensky, the Director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention appeared before a Congress budget hearing on May 19th 2021. She was questioned by Senator John Kennedy over the origins of SARS CoV-2. She said “I don’t believe I’ve seen enough data, individual data for me to be able to comment on that.” She noted “Certainly the possibilities of, that most coronaviruses that we know of are of origin from, that have infected the population – SARS CoV-1, MERS, generally come from an animal origin”. Senator Kennedy asked: “Are there any other possibilities?” She replied “Certainly a lab-based origin is one possibility”. Additionally Dr Walensky was asked whether or not the U.S. was funding gain of function research and responded “Not that I know of”. It is unclear upon what basis her answer was provided, given the apparent controversy over the definition of gain of function.

On May 14th 2021 a Letter to the editor of Science was published under the heading “Investigate the Origins of COVID-19”. It stated “As [a group of eighteen] scientists [Bloom et al.] with relevant expertise, we agree with the WHO director-general, the United States and 13 other countries, and the European Union that greater clarity about the origins of this pandemic is necessary and feasible to achieve. We must take hypotheses about both natural and laboratory spill-overs seriously until we have sufficient data”. Importantly they explained that “A proper investigation should be transparent, objective, data-driven, inclusive of broad expertise, subject to independent oversight, and responsibly managed to minimize the impact of conflicts of interest”. This suggested that they were not wholly impressed with the efforts made so far. The letter went on to say: “Public health agencies and research laboratories alike need to open their records to the public. Investigators should document the veracity and provenance of data from which analyses are conducted and conclusions drawn, so that analyses are reproducible by independent experts”. The article condemned “anti-Asian sentiment” and noted the importance of “…dispassionate science-based discourse on this difficult but important issue” (Bloom et al. Letter to the EditorScience Magazine – May 14th 2021.)

Matthew Crawford discussed Wade’s analysis in an article in Unherd entitled “Science has become a cartel – There’s a reason the medical establishment dismissed the lab leak theory. He agreed with Wade that “…researchers have an incentive to carry the work out under less restrictive safety standards, and therefore to downplay the risks when applying for grants” adding that “In this, there may have been a subtle form of collusion. There is no need to posit a conspiracy, one need only take note of the shared incentives. It is other members of the guild who conduct the review process that decides the allocation of research funds; they are unlikely to insist upon more stringent safety standards — which would have to apply to themselves as well. Research communities have internal competition, but also collective interests”. Additionally, one could add to Crawford’s remarks that there is a line to be drawn between complacent passivity and complicit silence. In terms of any future adjudication over the issues including the passive or other involvement of relevant parties neither response would be likely to be considered satisfactory given the extreme risks involved.

Crawford’s article is scathing of the spring 2020 letters in The Lancet and Nature Medicine considering that they “…were in fact anti-scientific in spirit and intent. Yet the pronouncements had the effect of shutting down inquiry that was not only legitimate, but urgently needed”. The letter sent to the editor of Science of May 14th was equally clear on the surrounding aspects of the scientific method. Crawford also observed that essentially scientific progress tends to happen when a cosy consensus, with evident gaps in it, is faced with a gap filled reality proffered by “an outsider” which ultimately cannot be ignored. Maybe, he suggests, establishment gatekeepers sometimes even have to “…literally die, or retire” because “…one has to keep in mind that scientists are human beings first”. This is not new, but “The invocation of ‘conspiracy theory’ [in the letter to the Lancet and elsewhere] has become a reflex by which incumbents in many domains seek to arrest criticism”. That is new and he makes some suggestions as to why “…the internet has broken the knowledge monopolies by which institutional credibility is maintained”. So the poison added into the debate helps create additional barriers through “…denunciation that is highly moralised. Epistemic threats to institutional authority are resolved into moral conflicts between good people and bad people”. This might just be the current version of the more familiar ‘established faith’ versus ‘newcomer’ narrative but it is not only moralised, it carries the additional impetus and force which wider public engagement can bring. That is in addition to that already emanating from ‘the guild’. It is hard to disagree upon how effective “…the early, pre-emptive declarations of scientific consensus in The Lancet and Nature Medicine were in garnering media enforcement of public opinion on the matter”. The evidence of its effectiveness is it crushed free and open debate on the lab leak hypothesis for over a year. The approach adopted was transparently self-serving, for those with an interest in continuing high risk virology and maintaining related funding streams. It was also politically charged “…Donald Trump publicly floated the idea that Covid may have had its origin in a Chinese lab”. So “It was therefore a point of conviction for all those who believe in science [actual scientists and the media] that such a hypothesis could only be a conspiracy theory, probably rooted in “Sinophobia””. As Crawford highlights even the, much later, letter published in Science feels the need to expressly reject ‘anti-Asian sentiment’ How was that relevant? Because, he notes the alleged ‘conspiracy theory’ has often been juxtaposed with reporting on anti-Asian hate crimes, thereby subsuming an urgent scientific question to the Trump-era morality play.

By June 2021 some rapid and extensive repositioning was taking place across parts of the media and scientific community which had hitherto downplayed, ignored or even outright censored, the lab leak hypothesis. An article by the Guardian’s U.S. columnist, Thomas Frank considered the process which had occurred and its potential impact in some detail. It is a particularly interesting article as it reflects the way in which a number of official pandemic related narratives emerged and at least one had started to unravel. (The Guardian – “If the Wuhan lab-leak hypothesis is true, expect a political earthquake” – June 1st 2021.)

Frank began with “There was a time when the Covid pandemic seemed to confirm so many of our [liberal/progressive] assumptions. It cast down the people we regarded as villains. It raised up those we thought were heroes…”. He continued “’Respect science’ admonished our yard signs. And lo! Covid came and forced us to do so, elevating our scientists to the highest seats of social authority, from where they banned assembly, commerce, and all the rest”. He suggests that the consensus was that “Reality itself punished leaders like him [President Trump as symbolic of the non-liberal/non progressive] who refused to bow to expertise. The prestige news media even figured out a way to blame the worst death tolls on a system of organised ignorance they called ‘populism’”. But “Now the media is filled with disturbing stories suggesting that Covid might have come — not from ‘populism’ at all, but from a laboratory screw-up in Wuhan, China. You can feel the moral convulsions beginning as the question sets in: What if science itself is in some way culpable for all this?” The moralisation of scientific debate (per Crawford’s observations) and its personalisation as part of political discourse (neatly described by Frank) has a big potential price tag attached to it. If any part of the equation fails to deliver as promised it all collapses in a heap. The goodies and the baddies are not as easy to determine as appears to have been thought and the ultimate victim might not only be individual scientists and other experts but the credibility of science itself. But maybe, we might add, only if science (if it can be embodied as such) is viewed, incorrectly, as our rightful master of all as opposed to as our helpful guide.

Frank admits that he had, perhaps embarrassingly it now appears, had always tried to talk people out of believing in the lab leak hypothesis: “…because the newspapers I read and the TV shows I watched had assured me on many occasions that the lab-leak theory wasn’t true, that it was a racist conspiracy theory, that only deluded Trumpists believed it, that it got infinite pants-on-fire ratings from the fact-checkers, and because (despite all my cynicism) I am the sort who has always trusted the mainstream news media…”. The result was that “My own complacency on the matter was dynamited”. Dynamited that was by the Wade article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Frank then asks “What if this crazy story turns out to be true?” and replies that “The answer is that this is the kind of thing that could obliterate the faith of millions”. It appears that he now feels he may have been naïve to trust the official narrative, like many others. He explained that “In reaction to the fool Trump, liberalism made a sort of cult out of science, expertise, the university system, executive-branch ‘norms’, the ‘intelligence community’, the State Department, NGOs, the legacy news media, and the hierarchy of credentialed achievement in general”.

Frank’s reference to a sort of cult is highly relevant. That is especially so given the context of a potential mass exit from cults he suggests may have been created around science, expertise and so on. Cults essentially involve misplaced faith which might be ‘obliterated’ by new findings and replaced by an alternative narrative. But they also have other characteristics. The International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA) defined ‘cult’ as ‘a group or movement’ with the following characteristics:

  1. Great or excessive devotion or dedication to some person, idea, or thing, and
  2. employing unethical manipulative or coercive techniques of persuasion and control (e.g., isolation from former friends and family, debilitation, use of special methods to heighten suggestibility and subservience, powerful group pressures, information management, suspension of individuality or critical judgement, promotion of total dependency on the group and fear of leaving it),
  3. designed to advance the goals of the group’s leaders,
  4. to the actual or possible detriment of members, their families, or the community.

(West & Langone – Cultic Studies Journal, 3, No 1 pages 85-96.) The cultic similarities of many aspects of pandemic related narratives and behaviours is a whole new field of study opening up to social scientists and lay enthusiasts. The implications of a developing exodus from them will only become apparent with the passage of time. Cults are however typically considered to be harmful to their members, and even to their leaders. Frank points out that COVID-19 “…has killed millions and ruined lives and disrupted the world economy far more extensively. Should it turn out that scientists and experts and NGOs, etc. are villains rather than heroes of this story, we may very well see the expert-worshiping values of modern liberalism go up in a fireball of public anger”. An individual’s emotional turbulence upon leaving a cult or cultlike beliefs certainly needs careful support and expert management. So, Frank’s observation is not overblown especially if effectively billions of people are unexpectedly and suddenly placed in that position vis a vis one or more part of the pandemic narrative depending upon who they are and where they are. At a basic level the thought that a virus might be effectively weaponised would be news to many as would the thought that it was actually being weaponised. That it was also being done in a knowingly unsafe manner would be even worse. But as for the additional knowledge of having been forced into unwitting and unwilling participation in such experimentation it is hard to know how to react personally let alone how to gauge the potential reaction of the rest of the world’s population.

Frank states: “If it does indeed turn out that the lab-leak hypothesis is the right explanation for how it began — that the common people of the world have been forced into a real-life lab experiment, at tremendous cost — there is a moral earthquake on the way.” He rightly emphasises the need to think more critically in the future as nobody has a monopoly on expertise and all the answers. That is quite an admission from a liberal/progressive perspective because Frank rather implies it has gradually become increasingly exclusive in its common beliefs despite claims of inclusivity. No longer should debate be shut down as someone does not follow the official line. That is a sign of hope. But the more immediate response from most people is likely to be an understandably emotional one. The thought that the illness, death and other severe impacts of COVID-19 and the extreme responses to it could all have all been avoided is an appalling one. An originating lab leak as the cause of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic would be the most devastating example of gross negligence in all of human history. The impact of knowing that the pandemic was avoidable would also be greatly increased if the responses to the crisis by similarly labelled ‘scientists and experts and NGOs, etc’ are also called into question on the basis of lack of justificatory evidence. The ‘etc’ forming the revised list of villains can thus reasonably be expected to mean much of mainstream and social media – in fact most anything that moves within a mile or two of the official narrative, which has been relentlessly pumped out over more than a year from spring 2020 would be liable to fall under a cataclysmic compounding of an obliterated faith in science, experts, the media, politicians and more. In short the natural result will not only be a very strong sense of disillusionment but also the anger Frank refers to and, maybe, and more alarmingly, a desire for vengeance. That is something that would need to be channelled into something shaped like justice to be remotely productive.

Cephas Alain is a retired lawyer.

Latest News

Vaccine Rollout Continues Apace

The Queen and Prince Phillip have received their first doses of the vaccine

The Telegraph reported yesterday that momentum is gathering behind the rollout of the vaccine.

The Oxford/AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccine roll out is being ramped up across the UK, after Boris Johnson promised vaccines would soon be available to people within 10 miles of their home.

The Prime Minister confirmed that as of January 7th, with the Pfizer and Oxford jabs combined, 1.26 million people in England and over 1.5 million across the UK have been vaccinated.

The latest figures show an increase of 200,000 vaccinations in one day, and includes more than 650,000 people over 80, which is 23% of all the over-80s in England.

As he announced the national lockdown that began on January 5th, the Prime Minister insisted that that there is “one huge difference” compared to the lockdown of last March.

“We are rolling out the biggest vaccination programme in our history,” he said. “We have vaccinated more people in the UK than in the rest of Europe combined. 

“By the middle of February if things go well, and with a wind in our sails, we expect to have offered the first vaccine dose to everyone in the four top priority groups identified by the Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation.”

595 GP-led sites are already providing vaccines, which should increase to 1,000 by the end of next week according to Mr Johnson. There are also 107 hospital sites with a “further 100 later this week”, he added.

Also contributing to this “unprecedented national effort” will be the armed forces, who are set to be drafted in to help run mass vaccination centres in sports stadiums and public venues. 

It is a good thing that those in the priority groups who want it are getting the vaccine, including the Queen and Prince Phillip, not least as this is a form of focused protection as recommended by the authors of the Great Barrington declaration. In the Wall Street Journal last month they wrote:

Given these facts, the Great Barrington Declaration calls for focused protection for the vulnerable. That means directing limited resources, now including vaccines, to shield these people from infection.

Vaccinating vulnerable groups as quickly as possible isn’t just about protecting them – it’s also about protecting the NHS. Writing in the Telegraph yesterday, Juliet Samuel pointed out that the key to lifting restrictions lies with easing the strain on hospitals.

Thankfully, there is a windfall headed our way, in the form of the Covid vaccines. In seven weeks, if all goes to plan, the vast majority of the demographics most likely to die of this disease will be largely immune. That should be more than enough to end the lockdown.

The Government is keen to attach long lists of conditionals to this promise, however. Asked about it, Boris would only say that in the spring, “very much I hope there will be the chance, to look at some relaxations of restrictions”.

The factor to watch is not actually the rollout of the vaccine programme, but the hospitalisation rate and the performance of the NHS. The race is not between death and vaccinations, but between vaccinations and beds.

Organised societies have always had to make trade-offs about the value of human life. What’s so odd about the British approach, however, is that we have replaced the sanctity of human life with the sanctity of the health system. If the NHS had double the capacity, the policy would no doubt be to tolerate twice the death rate. This tells us something about the perceived role of Government. It isn’t there to save lives, as such, but to look like it might be able to save lives. “Our NHS” is an emotional rallying cry not because it is a brilliantly effective system (God knows it’s not) or even because many of its staff work very hard, but because it is a structure we rely upon to hide our vulnerability. It is about the ideal, rather than the grim reality.

The problem with an ideal is that it easily eludes a cost-benefit analysis. Against it, you must raise other ideals: universal education, for example, or freedom. Covid policy tells us that none of these ideals currently have the same power as the promise of a hospital bed staffed by a caring nurse. If the reality falls, the Government gets the blame.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Writing in the Sunday Times, Robert Collville calls for the NHS to be rebuilt to withstand the next crisis.

Stop Press 2: A retired GP has got in touch to point out how difficult it is to volunteer as a vaccinator.

My wife and I and another retired GP here in north east Scotland wanted to volunteer as unpaid vaccinators. As general practices here are not involved in the vaccination programme, the only way to get involved is for us to apply for jobs as grade 5 nurses working for NHS Grampian on a short term contract. We have done so, but interviews are not until after January 17th. Then will come training, so you can see where this is going. Why on Earth did they not have this vaccination workforce ready for the beginning of January?

Panicking the Public? How Covid Stories Don’t Add Up

Christine Padgham has an written an interesting piece for Think Scotland looking into the problems the pandemic response is creating, both now and in the future.

On Friday, Nicola Sturgeon addressed the nation yet again and openly considered the possibility of tightening current Covid restrictions further. Where is Scotland now? How did we get here? Where are we going?

Let me lay my cards on the table: I’m a lockdown sceptic. But like any good scientist/sceptic, I am constantly re-evaluating my position. Every day I ask myself repeatedly: am I wrong?

I’d love to be wrong.

So yesterday, in an act of unusually brave self-flagellation, I listened to BBC News. I was dutifully informed that hospitals are about to collapse in South East England. I am quite familiar with the English hospital data and so I am aware that there are hospitals struggling there, and this is clearly worrying. It makes me wonder if I’m wrong about the situation in Scotland, but then again the statistics were released as usual at 2.00pm. My fear was once again fed that we in Scotland will never get out of this positive feedback loop we are in: our obsessive fear and testing of Covid is creating more of a problem than the disease itself.

The problems we are storing up are: medical, societal, personal, economic, democratic. The present and future damages just go on and on.

Our First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, thinks that Covid impact is reduced by limiting social contact. This has become her whole Covid mitigation strategy, along with many other leaders around the world. She has created this idea, which has stuck, that humans generally, and Government specifically, can manage the spread of a virus. She has sold this idea relentlessly, with the help of the media, who have provided her with endless propaganda to help. Now, if she wants to reduce cases, the only tool at her disposal is to further reduce social contact – without regard or respect for the costs of such measures; the costs we know land disproportionately on the most vulnerable: the children, the elderly, the poor.

But many people have had enough and their number is growing. We are heading for a crisis whichever way you look at it and it seems that people are perhaps beginning to understand this.

Put simply, there is no evidence that lockdown works to prevent the spread of a virus. 

We know the Government told us this in March and it was correct. Lockdown and the quarantine of the healthy is a bizarre experiment – never tried before but not treated as the experiment it is. We talk as if we have always dealt with viruses this way. There has been no rigorous analysis of the virological results of lockdown at all, much less the societal effects. We haven’t asked what effects this will have on our immunity either. Are we storing up huge health problems for next year and the years beyond?

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: A new data site has been launched called Inform Scotland for those “who share a common concern that contextualised data on Covid in Scotland is not as easily available as it should be, and that Scotland lacks forums where critical and informed discussion of this data and the policies which are claimed to rest on it can take place”. Looks very good.

Stop Press 2: A reminder that Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance is himself a lockdown sceptic – or was. Ahead of the first Lockdown in March, the Evening Standard reported his comments on Sky News:

If you completely locked down absolutely everything, probably for a period of four months or more then you would suppress this virus,

All of the evidence from previous epidemics suggests that when you do that and then you release it, it all comes back again.

The other part of this is to make sure that we don’t end up with a sudden peak again in the winter which is even larger which causes even more problems.

So we want to suppress it, not get rid of it completely which you can’t do anyway, not suppress it so we get the second peak and also allow enough of us who are going to get mild illness to become immune to this to help with the whole population response which would protect everybody.

New Study: Assessing the Impact of Lockdowns on COVID-19

Image from Sky News

John P. A. Ioannidis, Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology, Professor Jay Bhattacharya, a founding signatory of the Great Barrington Declaration, and other colleagues at Stanford University, have published a new, fully peer-reviewed study. Their objective was to assess the impact of the non-pharmaceutical interventions adopted by many countries in response to the outbreak of COVID-19.

The spread of COVID-19 has led to multiple policy responses that aim to reduce the transmission of the SARS-CoV-2. The principal goal of these so-called non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) is to reduce transmission in the absence of pharmaceutical options in order to reduce resultant death, disease, and health system overload. Some of the most restrictive NPI policies include mandatory stay-at-home and business closure orders (“lockdowns”). The early adoption of these more restrictive non-pharmaceutical interventions (mrNPIs) in early 2020 was justified because of the rapid spread of the disease, overwhelmed health systems in some hard-hit places, and substantial uncertainty about the virus’s morbidity and mortality.

Because of the potential harmful health effects of mrNPI, including hunger, opioid-related overdoses, missed vaccinations, increase in non-COVID-19 diseases from missed health services, domestic abuse, mental health and suicidality as well as a host of economic consequences with health implications, it is increasingly recognized that their postulated benefits deserve careful study… We propose an approach that balances the strengths of empirical analyses while taking into consideration underlying epidemic dynamics. We compare epidemic spread in places that implemented mrNPIs to counterfactuals that implemented only less-restrictive NPIs (lrNPIs). In this way, it may be possible to isolate the role of mrNPIs, net of lrNPIs and epidemic dynamics. Here, we use Sweden and South Korea as the counterfactuals to isolate the effects of mrNPIs in countries that implemented mrNPIs as well as lrNPIs. Unlike most of its neighbors that implemented mandatory stay-at-home and business closures, Sweden’s approach in the early stages of the pandemic relied entirely on lrNPIs, including social distancing guidelines, discouraging of international and domestic travel, and a ban on large gatherings. South Korea also did not implement mrNPIs. Its strategy relied on intensive investments in testing, contact tracing, and isolation of infected cases and close contacts.

They describe their methodology as follows:

We estimate the unique effects of mrNPIs on case growth rate during the northern hemispheric spring of 2020 in England, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and the United States by comparing the effect of NPIs in these countries to those in Sweden and South Korea (separately). The data we use builds on an analysis of NPI effects and consists of daily case numbers in subnational administrative regions of each country (e.g. regions in France, provinces in Iran, states in the US, and counties in Sweden), merged with the type and timing of policies in each administrative region…

It is important to note that because the true number of infections is not visible in any country, it is impossible to assess the impact of national policies on transmission of new infections. Instead, we follow other studies evaluating the effects of NPIs that use case numbers, implicitly assuming that their observed dynamics may represent a consistent shadow of the underlying infection dynamics.

Having set out their method, they say:

In the framework of this analysis, there is no evidence that more restrictive non-pharmaceutical interventions (“lockdowns”) contributed substantially to bending the curve of new cases in England, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, or the United States in early 2020. By comparing the effectiveness of NPIs on case growth rates in countries that implemented more restrictive measures with those that implemented less restrictive measures, the evidence points away from indicating that mrNPIs provided additional meaningful benefit above and beyond lrNPIs. While modest decreases in daily growth (under 30%) cannot be excluded in a few countries, the possibility of large decreases in daily growth due to mrNPIs is incompatible with the accumulated data…

They then turn to the winter surge in case numbers.

During the northern hemisphere autumn and winter of 2020, many countries, especially in Europe and the US, experienced a large wave of COVID-19 morbidity and mortality. Those waves were met with new (or renewed) NPIs, including mrNPIs in some countries (e.g. England) and lrNPIs in others (e.g. Portugal) that had used mrNPIs in the first wave. The spread of infections in countries that were largely spared in the spring (e.g. Austria and Greece) further highlight the challenges and limited ability of NPIs to control the spread of this highly transmissible respiratory virus. Empirical data for the characteristics of fatalities in the later wave before mrNPIs were adopted as compared with the first wave (when mrNPIs had been used) shows that the proportion of COVID-19 deaths that occurred in nursing homes was often higher under mrNPIs rather than under less restrictive measures. This further suggests that restrictive measures do not clearly achieve protection of vulnerable populations. Some evidence also suggests that sometimes under more restrictive measures, infections may be more frequent in settings where vulnerable populations reside relative to the general population.

Finally, they conclude:

In summary, we fail to find strong evidence supporting a role for more restrictive NPIs in the control of COVID-19 in early 2020. We do not question the role of all public health interventions, or of coordinated communications about the epidemic, but we fail to find an additional benefit of stay-at-home orders and business closures. The data cannot fully exclude the possibility of some benefits. However, even if they exist, these benefits may not match the numerous harms of these aggressive measures. More targeted public health interventions that more effectively reduce transmissions may be important for future epidemic control without the harms of highly restrictive measures.

It’s quite technical, but worth taking the time to read in full.

Stop Press: A new study in Sweden has found that Schoolteachers were no more likely to catch COVID-19 than the rest of the population when Sweden remained open during the first lockdown.

Ivermectin

In the round-up, yesterday we linked to video letter from Dr Tess Lawrie of the Evidence-Based Medicine Consultancy in Bath to the Prime Minister concerning the potential of Ivermectin to prevent and treat COVID-19. The video, as many readers found, swiftly and mysteriously disappeared from YouTube so we’ve moved the story up here to give it greater prominence. Dr Lawrie’s message is still available on the consultancy’s website, together with the report and the related press release (pdf) which provides more detail:

New British research has examined and pooled data from a wide range of international studies – including Argentina, Bangladesh, Iran, Pakistan, Spain, Egypt, India and the US – and found that the anti-parasitic medicine Ivermectin not only reduces deaths from COVID-19, but can be used to protect doctors and nurses – as well as others who have had “contacts‟ with ill people – from getting the infection.

The report was published last week by an independent UK-based medical research company, the Evidence-Based Medicine Consultancy Ltd (E-BMC).

The research was conducted to support the recent findings of Dr Pierre Kory and clinical experts of the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC) in the US. Doctors around the world are now working together to raise awareness of this life-saving medicine which probably reduces the risk of a person dying from COVID-19 by between 65% and 95%.

In addition, the researchers believe that ivermectin should be offered as a prophylactic measure to health care workers as soon as possible because the analysis shows that ivermectin substantially reduces COVID-19 infections in these at risk groups.

The conclusions of the new global research are so clear that it is believed Ivermectin should be viewed as an essential drug to reduce the severity of illness and fatalities caused by the COVID-19 virus.

In most studies included in the review, the doses of Ivermectin given were similar to those given for common parasitic infections in humans (e.g. 0.2mg/kg orally, equivalent to a 12mg tablet for a 6kg adult).

Commenting on the research, Dr Tess Lawrie of the E-BMC, said, “This is really good news. Ivermectin will have a significant impact on the battle against COVID-19

Meanwhile, over in the USA, Drs Pierre Kory and Paul Marik of the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance appeared before the National Institutes of Health COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines Panel to present the latest evidence on ivermectin. The press release (pdf) which followed said:

The doctors explained to the panel that numerous clinical studies, including peer-reviewed randomized controlled trials, showed large magnitude benefits of ivermectin in prophylaxis, early treatment and also in late-stage disease. Taken together, the doctors reported that the dozens of clinical trials that have now emerged from around the world are substantial enough to reliably assess clinical efficacy.

Specifically, the FLCCC physicians and Dr. Hill presented data from 18 randomized controlled trials that included over 2,100 patients. The trial results demonstrated that ivermectin produces faster viral clearance, faster time to hospital discharge, faster time to clinical recovery, and a 75% reduction
in mortality rates.

“In order to save thousands who will die while waiting for their turn to receive the vaccine, it is imperative that treatment guidelines issued by the NIH over four months ago be updated to reflect the strength of the data for ivermectin in prophylaxis, early treatment, and late-stage disease,” said Dr. Kory, FLCCC president, following the hearing.

Ivermectin has not yet been approved by any of the relevant authorities in the UK as a COVID-19 treatment, but with so much emphasis being placed on rollout of the various vaccines it is worth considering that there are other potential drugs that could have been part of the solution.

Boris’s Latest Rules are More Baffling Than Ever

from Getty Images

Charles Holland, a lawyer who writes regularly for the Spectator, has examined the rules of the new Lockdown and he is not impressed:

When Boris Johnson rolled back the legal restrictions over summer as Britain emerged from the first lockdown, he was clear that enough was enough:

Neither the police themselves, nor the public that they serve, want virtually every aspect of our behaviour to be the subject of the criminal law… After a long period of asking… the British public to follow very strict and complex rules to bring coronavirus under control… we will be asking [people] to follow guidance on limiting their social contact, rather than forcing them to do so through legislation.”

There has obviously been a sharp U-turn in this approach and though previous rule changes have been justified on the basis of making them easier for the public to understand and for the police to enforce it would be hard to mount such a defence now, says Charles Holland.

The law is very complex, the mere 12 pages of regulations for the English Lockdown 1 have been superseded by 120 pages of the (thrice amended) Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers) (England) Regulations 2020. Intricacy more appropriate to the Dungeons and Dragons’ rulebook has not stopped an accompanying barrage of guidance, ministerial statements, spokespersons’ clarifications, police pronouncements, public information posters and pop-ups…

The circumstances in which a person may leave their Tier 4 home to access childcare services, for example, has been subject to wholesale amendment three times in less than three weeks. Sparing readers the tedious technical ebbs and flows, the current position reserves the use of a particular species of childcare to parents who are “critical workers”, but only where “reasonably necessary” to enable them “to work or search for work, undertake training or education, or to attend a medical appointment or address a medical need'”.

Parking the checklist-style complexity, it is difficult understand the rhyme or reason for this sort of cheese-paring. Why is it reasonable for a critical worker to put their child in childcare in order to attend a job interview, but not to attend a funeral?

Matters are made worse by guidance which overstates the law. The latest lockdown guidance resurrects previously challenged advice that exercise “should be limited to once per day”. The word ‘should’ (not ‘must’) indicates to lawyers that this is non-legally binding advice. Non-lawyers, such as the ambulant constable or PCSO in your local park, may not draw such nice distinctions. The Met’s ominous suggestion that Londoners can “expect officers to be more inquisitive as to why they see them out and about” raises the spectre of al fresco debates on restrictions and exceptions. There is plenty to debate: the regulations now set out 16 non-exhaustive categories of circumstances deemed to be a reasonable excuse to leave the home, with an overlay of non-enforceable guidance to further confuse what is already unclear. Derbyshire Constabulary, in particular, have once more come under the spotlight for what appears to be enforcement of guidance (exercise locally) rather than the law.

The gilding of the law with guidance remains a continuing mystery. If you want exercise to be limited to once per day or to be taken locally, why not legislate for that? Why devalue the legislative currency, already under pressure because of the sheer volume of regulatory output? Press reports suggested that the Government did consider travel restrictions, and even a night-time curfew, but was not prepared to go that far.

Further confusion arises from post-legislative departmental ‘clarification’. Lockdown 3 saw the removal of the express ‘recreation’ exemption from the stay-at-home rule: within two days, representations from angling and shooting organisations had caused Government officials to ‘acknowledge’ that fishing and shooting constitute ‘exercise’, and thus within a permitted exception…

Why does this matter? Because the cost of lockdown will be squandered unless it works. The great unanswered question is this: is the current combination of laws, guidance and enforcement policies the best mechanism to achieve the minimum in social mixing and concomitant reduction in transmission of the virus? I’m not convinced.

No-one would envy Government the task of coming up with the right mixture of rules and imploring people to use their common sense. But constant tweaking of the criminal law to micromanage ways in which people might need to venture out of the front door and interact has produced a mush of overwhelming complexity. This is a gift to both the loophole spotter and the overzealous enforcer. It undermines enforcement against the irresponsible, who can – and do – use complexity of the law as justification for not understanding it. The resurgence of arbitrary lines of fine-tuning also undermines a message that would be more effective if put simply.

So while Boris’s broadcast message to “stay at home” was straightforward, the rules are anything but. There are too many regulations. They are too complicated. And Government advice only adds to this confusion. 

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: The Telegraph is reporting that police will issue fines to rule breakers after one warning.

Stop Press 2: The police do themselves get caught out occasionally. A number of officers were spotted tucking into breakfast inside a café. A clear breach of the rules and the matter is being investigated according to MailOnline.

The Military Approach to Managing the Crisis – Focused Protection

Lieutenant-Colonel David Redman on Remembrance Day, 1995, in the former Republic of Yugoslavia

C2C journal has an interview with David Redmond, the former head of Alberta’s counter-terrorism strategy and an ex-military man. He draws on decades of high-level military experience to offer a robust alternative to Canada’s pandemic response.

C2C Journal: Throughout this crisis we’ve heard plenty from public health officials and doctors, and to a lesser-degree from economists and assorted other public policy experts. But while it’s popular to talk about how we are “at war” with COVID-19, we’ve heard next to nothing from the people who actually know how to win wars. Take us through the military perspective on how we should be battling this disease.

David Redman: The first step to resolving emergencies is to respect the planning process. From the time I was a lieutenant, the army taught me to begin with what we called the Estimate of Situation. Once you have your problem, you analyse the mission: Who is your enemy? Who are your allies? What tasks are given? What tasks are implied? What can go wrong? After many years working with Government and the private sector, I’ve discovered that the knowledge and skills required for this sort of operational planning are severely lacking outside the military.

When an emergency happens, you need a process to create a plan, and then you need to follow that plan. Since the 1950s every Government in this country has had a set of emergency plans: what to do in the case of a forest fire, flood, dangerous goods accident or pandemic etc. These are all updated regularly. Alberta’s pandemic plan was last updated in 2014.

But what happened in the middle of March when COVID-19 appeared on our shores after wreaking havoc in China, Italy, Spain and France? Governments took every plan they’d ever written and threw them all out the window. No one followed the process. They panicked, put the doctors in charge and hid for three months. And now, having made that mistake, we can’t get out of it.

C2C: Why is it a mistake to put doctors in charge of a pandemic?

DR: The short answer is that a pandemic is not a public health emergency. It is a public emergency. These are two very different things. Public health emergencies are best used for local outbreaks of disease. An outbreak of measles in a single community that can be isolated could be considered a public health emergency. A provincewide or nationwide pandemic should never be declared a public health emergency because the powers that you need and the people who are going to be affected go far beyond the health care system. It affects every citizen, every industry, every non-profit organization. Everything.

The problem with our COVID-19 response is that power has been placed in the wrong place. Why? Because Governments adopted the wrong mission statement. The first principle of war is the selection and maintenance of the aim. If you miss on that, things are going to go very poorly. Across the country it appears to me that our aim has been to minimize the number of people who catch COVID-19. That is repeatedly reflected in the media. The daily case count is the most important thing in every daily newscast and every news story. It’s all the politicians seem to talk about. This is wrong…

C2C: Rather than put doctors in charge, what should we have done in response to COVID-19 in those first crucial months last spring?

DR: Since the middle of March, we had access to reliable statistics from China, Spain, Italy, France that showed quite clearly 70% of all deaths arising from Covid-19 were of people over the age of 80. Another 18% were 70 to 79 years old. Only 3.5% were under the age of 60. And less than 1% of the people who’d died up to that point didn’t have at least one pre-existing underlying medical complication. This wasn’t September. This was March. We knew very quickly what Covid-19 was doing – it was killing old people who had severe comorbidities. The immediate response should have been: how do we protect those people?

As we say in the military, an 80% solution applied with vigour immediately is better than a 100% solution applied too late. What holds in a battle holds in pandemics too. First, we should have identified every concentration of vulnerable people, including all nursing homes, hospitals and palliative care homes. Then comprehensive options should have been developed to quarantine both the residents of these facilities and the staff who supported them. Support and relief systems for these staff and surge capacity should have been discussed back in March. Instead each new outbreak in a seniors home seemed to come as a surprise.

Can this man please be placed in charge of coordinating Britain’s response to the next pandemic?

Worth reading in full.

Round-up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Five today: “Something Better Change” by The Stranglers, “A Winter’s Tale” by David Essex, “Don’t Give Up” by Peter Gabriel (featuring Kate Bush), “United We Stand” by Brotherhood of Man and “Sympathy For The Devil” by The Rolling Stones.

Love in the Time of Covid

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

Sharing Stories

Some of you have asked how to link to particular stories on Lockdown Sceptics so you can share it. To do that, click on the headline of a particular story and a link symbol will appear on the right-hand side of the headline. Click on the link and the URL of your page will switch to the URL of that particular story. You can then copy that URL and either email it to your friends or post it on social media. Please do share the stories.

Social Media Accounts

You can follow Lockdown Sceptics on our social media accounts which are updated throughout the day. To follow us on Facebook, click here; to follow us on Twitter, click here; to follow us on Instagram, click here; to follow us on Parler, click here; and to follow us on MeWe, click here.

Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, we bring you the University of Pennsylvania’s Athletics Department which has just adopted the recommendations of its Racial Justice Task Force. Campus Reform has the story:

The University of Pennsylvania’s Athletics Department approved a series of diversity-related recommendations from its “Racial Justice Task Force,” including a “permanent shared space for Black student-athletes” which is also open to “allies and non-athletes.”

Director of Penn Athletics and Recreation M. Grace Calhoun and the Division of Recreation and Intercollegiate Athletics unanimously affirmed the task force’s recommendations.

Penn Athletics states that “these recommendations have been created as a beginning, not a conclusion” in the process of making the athletics department into a “more diverse, inclusive, anti-racist organisation.”

The athletics department will create a “permanent shared space for Black student-athletes,” which will also be open to “allies and non-athletes.” This centre will also be “open late night and early morning with swipe access,” and include work-study opportunities “funded by the Black Student-Athlete Fund”.

Among the task force’s short-term goals is the hiring of an “Athletic Diversity & Inclusion” designee, who will be “solely dedicated to job responsibilities focusing on diversity and inclusion”. In the long-term, the University is recommended to “secure funding for and hire a Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer”.

The task force notes that financial restrictions may apply in the short-term and therefore recommended that an existing staff member serve alongside a “group of diverse staff” which will assist with implementing the task force’s other recommendations…

According to the recommendation, student-athletes will view a one-hour video entitled “Broadening Your Perspectives”. Then, students will be divided into 30-person groups to discuss the video and view additional content.

In the long-term, staff members will undergo training during in-services, as well as implicit bias training for hiring managers “on an ongoing basis”. 

Chance Layton, Communications and Membership Coordinator for the National Association of Scholars, told Campus Reform that “the intention of creating a space marketed for ‘Black student-athletes and club sport athletes’ is straightforward neo-segregation. Racially segregated spaces are not ‘separate but equal,’ and they shouldn’t be. They shouldn’t exist, period.”

“Had this draft plan stuck with community engagement and enrichment, especially for the community around Penn, it might have served its purpose,” he added. “Instead, the drafters have opted to worsen race relations on campus.”

Stop Press: Over in the Critic, David Scullion has noted that the Germans are rethinking the names they give to weather events.

Before 1998 in Germany cloudy low pressure weather systems used to have female names and sunny highs were male, demonstrating beyond doubt the patriarchal nature of the planet. But now fearless activists [sic] journalists have uncovered another profound injustice in our atmosphere: the fact that German storms are given German names. The group have just started something called #WeatherCorrection, and no, it’s nothing as sinister as the cloud-seeding that tyrants reportedly do to make sure their birthday is sunny, it’s just a harmless plot by the New German Media Makers to re-make the weather in their image. The group have started naming weather fronts foreign-names instead of German ones as an awareness campaign in which they also want the media to impose race quotas when hiring. In Germany anyone can name a weather system; it’s €360 for a sunny high but €240 for a rainy low. Of course, placing a lower value on so-called “worse” weather is problematic, as is the discriminatory practice of only accepting euro payments when placing your political ad in the sky, but it’s progress. The next task will be combatting the white fragility of snowflakes and re-naming the earth’s light-source something a bit less male.

Stop Press 2: Tom Slater has written a good column in the Sunday Times on how we let IT guys censor a President. Brendan O’Neill has something to say about it too, in Spiked-Online.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

We’ve created a one-stop shop down here for people who want to obtain a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card – because wearing a mask causes them “severe distress”, for instance. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and the Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. And if you feel obliged to wear a mask but want to signal your disapproval of having to do so, you can get a “sexy world” mask with the Swedish flag on it here.

Don’t forget to sign the petition on the UK Government’s petitions website calling for an end to mandatory face masks in shops here.

A reader has started a website that contains some useful guidance about how you can claim legal exemption. Another reader has created an Android app which displays “I am exempt from wearing a face mask” on your phone. Only 99p.

If you’re a shop owner and you want to let your customers know you will not be insisting on face masks or asking them what their reasons for exemption are, you can download a friendly sign to stick in your window here.

And here’s an excellent piece about the ineffectiveness of masks by a Roger W. Koops, who has a doctorate in organic chemistry. See also the Swiss Doctor’s thorough review of the scientific evidence here and Prof Carl Heneghan and Dr Tom Jefferson’s Spectator article about the Danish mask study here.

Stop Press: A reader has got in touch to challenge the perception that the populations of Asian countries have always been enthusiastic mask wearers.

I have lived in Asia for most of the last 20 years (China and Malaysia) and travelled extensively throughout the region during that time.

So it is with absolute authority that I can say that the claim that wearing masks in public in Asian countries was common prior to this Covid crisis is complete and utter rubbish. I have seen this assertion made on numerous occasions by politicians and others here in Britain. It simply isn’t true.

Prior to the Covid crisis, masks could be seen from time to time on a very small proportion of people, primarily as a protection against severe pollution (for which a mask definitely does help). In more recent times I have encountered the odd person with a cold wearing a mask out of consideration but this is something I have encountered perhaps half a dozen times over a period of 20 years.

The idea that mask wearing was widespread prior to the Covid crisis is just not true and the few people that did wear them did so primarily to protect themselves from pollution.

If our hope is a complete return to normality at some point, I think it is essential that this claim of widespread mask wearing in Asia prior to Covid be called out for the misinformation that it is.

Have other readers had a similar experience of mask wearing in the East Asia? Let us know here.

The Great Barrington Declaration

Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya

The Great Barrington Declaration, a petition started by Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya calling for a strategy of “Focused Protection” (protect the elderly and the vulnerable and let everyone else get on with life), was launched in October and the lockdown zealots have been doing their best to discredit it ever since. If you googled it a week after launch, the top hits were three smear pieces from the Guardian, including: “Herd immunity letter signed by fake experts including ‘Dr Johnny Bananas’.” (Freddie Sayers at UnHerd warned us about this the day before it appeared.) On the bright side, Google UK has stopped shadow banning it, so the actual Declaration now tops the search results – and Toby’s Spectator piece about the attempt to suppress it is among the top hits – although discussion of it has been censored by Reddit. The reason the zealots hate it, of course, is that it gives the lie to their claim that “the science” only supports their strategy. These three scientists are every bit as eminent – more eminent – than the pro-lockdown fanatics so expect no let up in the attacks. (Wikipedia has also done a smear job.)

You can find it here. Please sign it. Now over three quarters of a million signatures.

Update: The authors of the GBD have expanded the FAQs to deal with some of the arguments and smears that have been made against their proposal. Worth reading in full.

Update 2: Many of the signatories of the Great Barrington Declaration are involved with new UK anti-lockdown campaign Recovery. Find out more and join here.

Update 3: You can watch Sunetra Gupta set out the case for “Focused Protection” here and Jay Bhattacharya make it here.

Update 4: The three GBD authors plus Prof Carl Heneghan of CEBM have launched a new website collateralglobal.org, “a global repository for research into the collateral effects of the COVID-19 lockdown measures”. Follow Collateral Global on Twitter here. Sign up to the newsletter here.

Judicial Reviews Against the Government

There are now so many legal cases being brought against the Government and its ministers we thought we’d include them all in one place down here.

The Simon Dolan case has now reached the end of the road. The current lead case is the Robin Tilbrook case which challenges whether the Lockdown Regulations are constitutional. You can read about that and contribute here.

Then there’s John’s Campaign which is focused specifically on care homes. Find out more about that here.

There’s the GoodLawProject and Runnymede Trust’s Judicial Review of the Government’s award of lucrative PPE contracts to various private companies. You can find out more about that here and contribute to the crowdfunder here.

And last but not least there was the Free Speech Union‘s challenge to Ofcom over its ‘coronavirus guidance’. A High Court judge refused permission for the FSU’s judicial review on December 9th and the FSU has decided not to appeal the decision because Ofcom has conceded most of the points it was making. Check here for details.

Stop Press: A new group called Lawyers for Liberty are supporting the Robin Tilbrook case against the Government examining whether the Government has acted constitutionally in enacting a lockdown. They are asking for witness statements from UK-based business owners, large or small, who have been forced to close, as the group’s spokesperson, Jo Rogers, explains:

https://twitter.com/JoRogersUK/status/1346923599333109762

You can access the form to submit a statement on their Democracy Declaration page, and you can learn more about the group from this interview with Jo Rogers.

Samaritans

If you are struggling to cope, please call Samaritans for free on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.org or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch. Samaritans is available round the clock, every single day of the year, providing a safe place for anyone struggling to cope, whoever they are, however they feel, whatever life has done to them.

Shameless Begging Bit

Thanks as always to those of you who made a donation in the past 24 hours to pay for the upkeep of this site. Doing these daily updates is hard work (although we have help from lots of people, mainly in the form of readers sending us stories and links). If you feel like donating, please click here. And if you want to flag up any stories or links we should include in future updates, email us here. (Don’t assume we’ll pick them up in the comments.)

And Finally…

Bob Moran’s cartoon in todays Sunday Telegraph

Follow the Politics, Not the Science

Introduction

This article contrasts the policies pursued by the UK Government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic with prior national and international preparedness guidelines. It begins with illustrative reference to Popper’s criteria defining the scientific method and to seven foundational ethical principles proposed for use in public health education. It then examines scientific evidence for the value of Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions (NPIs) in the mitigation of respiratory virus outbreaks.

It finds that, until mid-March 2020, the UK Government followed existing national and international guidelines recommending low stringency NPIs – such as hand hygiene, social distancing and isolating when sick – to slow the spread of infections. There was some scientific evidence these measures were beneficial and accompanying harms limited. Government advisers assessed SARS-CoV-2 disease characteristics and risks realistically, incorporating known behaviour of similar respiratory viruses.

However, on March 23rd, 2020, an unprecedented lockdown – involving travel bans, stay at home orders and mandatory business closures – was implemented in the absence of empirical evidence for their utility. As well as contravening the existing pandemic preparedness guidelines, this violated key principles of public health ethics and human rights.

Many scientific studies have since shown lockdowns cause considerable harm for minimal benefit and the error has been compounded by a failure to abandon these policies as confounding evidence has accumulated.

These harms could have been avoided if the UK Government had respected the pandemic preparedness guidelines and the scientific and ethical principles underpinning them, and resisted media pressure – or coercion – to behave like ‘many other Governments’. Instead, lockdowns have been extended and repeated, and vindictive suppression of scepticism has increased – including that based on accepted principles of law, ethics and scientific inquiry.

Politics – not the science – caused the UK to become a ‘lockdown autocracy’ with one of the worst pandemic outcomes in the world. An inept but unchallenged administration arose, funded by borrowing and fiscal easing, supported by an acquiescent public highly dependent on Government subsidies, and led by media fear mongering with the manufacturing of ‘heroes’ and ‘villains’, vilification of dissent and condemnation of rational and viable alternatives.

The article concludes that an absence of leadership in the UK allowed human rights law and the ethics and principles of evidence-based public health to be disregarded, precipitating economic and social devastation and excess mortality. If a future such occurrence is to be avoided, new legislation and formal censure of those responsible – whether from politics, media, medicine, science or the judiciary – will be necessary.

Scientific method

Scientific certainty is a rare commodity, even amongst scientists. Experts frequently disagree and they cannot all be right. Many will doggedly hold on to their beliefs, even in the face of a mountain of contradictory evidence. It is the scientific method – not scientists themselves – which is intended as a defence against the fallibility of scientists and the incompleteness of knowledge.

According to the respected philosopher of science Karl Popper, scientific knowledge evolves via a process of postulation, corroboration and falsification (Popper 1963; Shea n.d.).

It is a requirement of scientific understanding that it can be used to explain phenomena and make predictions based on them that may be subject to independent falsification in observed reality – for example via the use of comparative controls, repeated tests and new experiments. Science is inherently sceptical.

Scientific knowledge is always provisional as – in principle – new evidence could be found that contradicts and overturns current understanding.

These principles should apply to NPIs and lockdowns, which should be based on rigorous science and subject to amendment as new empirical evidence emerges.

Public health ethics

Medicine is governed by ethical principles originating from the time of Hippocrates. These include the duty of physicians to benefit and not harm the patient, to acknowledge uncertainty and seek help beyond their area of expertise, to avoid under and over treatment, to respect privacy and personal circumstances and to consider the healthy as well as the sick (Shiel n.d.). Their application to public health is problematic as the focus of care moves from the patient to the population. For illustration, seven principles proposed for public health education (Schröder-Bäck et al. 2014) are as follows:

Non-maleficence

Beneficence

Health maximisation

Efficiency

Respect for autonomy

Justice

Proportionality

Beneficence and non-maleficence refer to the benefits and harms of public health measures. Health maximisation addresses whether the overall benefits outweigh the overall harms. It is not ethical to implement an intervention which leads to a benefit in one area while causing equal or greater harm in others.

The principle of efficiency concerns the optimal use of resources. It is this moral principle that invites an evidence based cost-benefit analysis of how limited resources may be best utilised in the overall public health interest.

The remaining three principles ask how public health interventions impinge on individual liberty, whether they fairly protect the health of all citizens, and whether their benefits outweigh infringements of other moral considerations – including loss of autonomy, privacy, freedom of speech, political activity, financial autonomy, education, the company of family and friends, and so on.

These principles also should apply to NPIs and lockdowns. If there is insufficient evidence for – or evidence contravening – ethical compliance the intervention should not be implemented.

Value of Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions in the mitigation of respiratory virus outbreaks

Pandemic preparedness guidelines available in early 2020 focused heavily on influenza as flu was anticipated to be the cause of a future infectious disease outbreak.

According to recent World Health Organisation (WHO 2019a), US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC – Qualls et al. 2017a), European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC – ECDC 2017, 2021) and UK Department of Health (DH – DH 2011a) guidelines and the reviews of scientific studies accompanying them (WHO 2019b; Qualls et al. 2017b; ECDC 2017, 2021; DH 2011b), it is clear most of the scientific literature is recent, with much produced following the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic. As Qualls et al. 2017a noted with regard to the CDC guidelines of 2017…

when the 2007 strategy was being developed, the evidence for the use of NPIs during influenza pandemics was limited, consisting primarily of historical analyses and contemporary observations rather than controlled scientific studies.

Testing the efficacy of NPIs for the mitigation of respiratory disease outbreaks does not, practically or ethically, lend itself to the kind independent repetition and falsification – and use of comparative controls – demanded for scientific understanding. Prior to 2020, assessments of the benefits and harms of NPIs remained rare, and for lockdowns unknown. Nevertheless, NPIs were proposed as a mechanism to reduce the rate of infection as an adjunct to antiviral medicines and vaccines, where they may be of limited effect or unavailable. Within the guidelines, personal measures include 1) social distancing, 2) staying at home if sick and avoiding the sick if healthy, and 3) observing good hand hygiene practices.

The WHO (2019a, b) note the positive risk-benefit balance of measures of this kind, perhaps somewhat mitigating doubts of their scientific reliability. The WHO did not recommend contact tracing, quarantine of exposed individuals, entry and exit screening or border closures. Interventions such as school closures and banning of mass gatherings seem to have been beneficial according to some, but not all studies. Conversely, they carry significant economic and social costs.

None of the guidelines recommended mandatory large scale lockdowns.

Although SARS-CoV-2 was new in 2020, the behaviour of other respiratory viruses, including other coronaviruses, has been the subject of extensive scientific enquiry. However, even after a hundred years of study, there are key aspects of ‘flu transmission that are debated (see Cannell et al 2008, for example) and understanding of each epidemic may involve “looking over one’s shoulder and asking ‘what happened?’” (Kilbourne 1973).

At least nine viruses are believed to cause respiratory disease, including influenza and coronaviruses, which predominate in winter in the northern temperate latitudes, tending to peak between December and March (Moriyama, Hugentobler and Iwasaki 2020; Hendley, Fishburne and Gwaltney 1972, Isaacs et al. 1983, Gaunt et al. 2010, Killerby et al. 2018, Masse et al. 2020, Monto et al. 2020, Nickbakhsh et al. 2020a). Coronaviruses naturally – and adaptively – mutate (Ren et al 2015) and seasonality naturally affects transmission of the virus and the human body has many natural mechanisms of resistance to respiratory viruses, including antibody-mediated immunity and others (see Moriyama, Hugentobler and Iwasaki 2020).

Virus-virus interference seems to affect the prevalence of some respiratory viruses from year to year (Kloepfer and Gern 2020, Nickbakhsh et al. 2020b) and it is interesting to note ‘flu seems to have disappeared with the arrival of SARS-CoV-2 – although respiratory virus surveillance during the pandemic is heavily skewed for COVID-19 detection.

A parsimonious view might be that SARS-CoV-2 followed a predictable pattern of seasonal respiratory virus behaviour. Its lethality – although elevated as a novel pandemic virus – was, again typically, quickly identified as far less than initially believed, as confirmed by early data from China, Italy and the Diamond Princess cruise liner (CEBM 2020a) – where a lack of transmission between some individuals in close proximity suggested a proportion of the population may be less susceptible to infection and disease.

As late as mid-March 2020, the statements of the UK Government’s scientific and medical advisers Sir Patrick Vallance and Professor Chris Whitty (Sky News 2020, Guardian News 2020) – supported by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE 2012) – appeared to reflect this view of the disease characteristics of SARS-CoV-2 and the likely immunological responses to it. They emphasised the limited risk to the vast majority of people, and the elevated risk to the elderly and vulnerable to COVID-19 – and the need to specifically protect those at high risk. The advisers also acknowledged the possible overlap in mortality of pandemic deaths with other natural deaths; the tendency of viruses to mutate – predominantly to less virulent strains; that the NHS predictably goes over capacity in some ICU areas every winter; that track and trace is useful at the beginning and end phases of a pandemic, but not when the virus is widespread and the negative impact of interventions on other aspects of health.

In mid-March, the they defended (Sky News 2020, Guardian News 2020) the UK Government’s policy recommending low stringency NPIs intended to slow the spread of infection to prevent the health system from being overwhelmed. This would allow both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients to be treated and reduce ‘overshoot’ of overall infection beyond the proportion sufficient for herd immunity.

The lockdown and its failure in practice

Prior to the emergence of COVID-19, the CDC, ECDC and UK DoH did not advocate hard lockdowns involving mandatory business closures, travel bans and stay at home orders. Nevertheless, precisely such a lockdown was implemented by the UK Government on March 23rd 2020 (GOV 2020), without scientific and epidemiological precedent.

Given the absence of evidence for benefits of lockdown that would outweigh acknowledged harms, it might be anticipated the decision was made at least in the expectation that a positive outcome would arise. However, subsequent empirical evidence has shown a lack of benefit of lockdowns above low stringency NPIs and considerable harm in many areas.

For example, a comparison of 10 countries (Bendavid et al. 2021) showed mandatory stay at home orders and business closures had no further effect on case growth than less restrictive NPIs such as social distancing, discouraging travel and bans on large gatherings as practiced in Sweden or intensive testing, tracing and isolation of cases and close contacts as practised in South Korea. A comparison of 166 countries (De Larochelambert et al. 2020) found “no link between the stringency of measures used to fight the pandemic and mortality from COVID-19”. The scientific literature challenging the efficacy of lockdowns beyond low stringency measures or small effects now extends to over 30 papers (InProportion 2021).

A similar number of studies (Collateral Global 2021) offer empirical evidence confirming anticipated harms to physical, mental and social health, education and the economy arising from lockdown policies. These affect all parts of society, causing unemployment (ONS 2021), debt (ONS 2020a), and falling educational attainment (Blainey, Hiorns and Hannay 2020, Christakis, Van Cleve and Zimmerman 2020) and rising obesity in children (NHS 2020). Among reported adverse health consequences, for example, are increases in abusive head trauma in children (Sidra et al. 2020) and domestic violence severity (ONS 2020b).

Of critical concern are lockdown-caused fatalities – including additional COVID-19 deaths such as those caused by nosocomial infections (SAGE 2020, CEBM 2020b, Discombe 2021) – both immediately and in the long term. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported 12,900 non-COVID related excess deaths in England and Wales for the period March 7th to May 1st 2020 compared to the previous five years (ONS 2020c). While it is difficult to distinguish under-counting of COVID-19 fatalities – due to early limited testing – from over-counting due to use of RT-PCR cycle thresholds exceeding the recommended limits in the absence of clinical signs (WHO 2021), one small autopsy study (Pell et al. 2020) showed that deaths attributable to reduced access to health care exceeded undiagnosed COVID-19. Another study (Edler et al. 2020) of 80 RT-PCR related COVID-19 fatalities found four to have been wrongly classified and entirely unrelated to SARS-CoV-2 infection. The authors note: “With the exception of two cases, all the deceased suffered from severe pre-existing conditions, predominantly of the cardiovascular system and the lungs.”

Both short and long term lockdown induced fatalities are anticipated due to decreases in hospital treatment of chronic and acute disease – such as reduced admissions for heart attacks and strokes in adults (Blecker et al. 2021). Similarly, delayed access to paediatric care has been found to most frequently affect children suffering from diabetes, sepsis, abuse, cancer and appendicitis (Lynn et al. 2020).

In contrast, scientific papers claiming reductions in deaths following lockdowns are few in number. They use predictive or simulation modelling approaches (Ferguson et al. 2020, Flaxman et al. 2020a, Dehning et al. 2020, Keeling et al. 2021), including the Imperial College London model (Ferguson et al. 2020, Flaxman et al. 2020b) which is seen to have influenced the UK Government’s radical policy change in late March 2020 (Conn et al. 2020, Whipple 2020) – or focus, for example, only on parts of the UK (Davies et al. 2020) to the exclusion of Scotland.

The scientific reliability of predictive simulation models is questionable. People exist in a complex physical and social environments. They do not behave with the uniformity of particles in a subatomic world. It is not clear to what extent predictions incorporate substantial variables such as virus seasonality, mutation, pre-existing and non-acquired immunity, and nosocomial disease caused by infections acquired in hospitals and care homes referred to above, and the empirical research on NPIs does not offer a particularly reliable foundation on which to build predictive models. Methodologically, these models are – strictly speaking – unfalsifiable: we can never know what would have happened in the UK if lockdowns had not been adopted. We can only try to infer it, as discussed previously. Apart from Sweden, Belarus and some US States – notably Florida and South Dakota – there are few western states where lockdowns were not adopted, but there is no empirical evidence they fared worse than those that were locked down (see OurWorldInData.org).

The few post hoc studies demonstrating lockdown efficacy involve Imperial College and SAGE authors such as Neil Ferguson (Flaxman et al. 2020a), John Edmunds (Davies et al. 2020) and Michael Tildesley (Keeling et al. 2021) who would appear to be judges in their own cause, and when these models have been subject to independent testing – fundamental to the scientific method – they have been found wanting.

For example, Soltesz et al. (2020) found “the public events ban and the lockdown being mutually effective in Sweden and 10 other European countries – was not addressed by Flaxman et al., which is noteworthy as this result undermines the conclusion of lockdown being especially effective” and suggested “the model, and its conclusion that all NPIs apart from lockdown have been of low effectiveness, should be treated with caution with regard to policy-making decisions”.

Chin et al. (2020) also re-examined the Imperial models and were highly critical of them in certain areas. For example, they suggested “results included in the Nature paper seem to suffer from serious selective reporting, providing the most favourable estimates for lockdown benefits” and “the three European countries excluded from the Nature publication had among the least favourable results for lockdown”. They concluded: “Inferences on effects of NPIs are non-robust and highly sensitive to model specification. Claimed benefits of lockdown appear grossly exaggerated.”

Furthermore, a small number of ‘natural experiments’ have allowed empirical comparative analyses, rather than simulation – again suggesting flaws within the latter. A study from Denmark found no difference in infection rates between municipalities under strict lockdown compared to those under low stringency controls (Kepp and Bjornskov 2021). A study of US Marine recruits showed no significant difference in infections between quarantined and non-quarantined participants (Letizia et al. 2020).

The ethical implications of locking down

Irrespective of the reasons for their implementation, there is a strong case to be made that lockdowns are unethical as they deliver neither non-maleficence nor beneficence.

The UK Department of Health and Social Care produced a provisional cost-benefit analysis of life-years lost and saved with and without lockdown (DHSC 2020) on April 8th, 2020, the day COVID-19 deaths peaked. This was based on a ‘mitigated’ scenario of March 28th, by which time SARS-CoV-2 infections had also already peaked. This suggests both health maximisation and efficiency have been afterthoughts in the implementation of lockdown. More recently, some independent studies have used nascent empirical data to offer cost-benefit evaluations as the pandemic has progressed.

Miles et al. (2020), for example, used the Quality Adjusted Life Year (QALY) to balance lives lost due to COVID-19 against those lost as a consequence of the first UK lockdown. They concluded: “we find that having extended the lockdown for as long as three months is likely to have generated costs that are greater than likely benefits”, “a policy of ‘let’s wait until things are clearer’ is not reliably prudent” and “a movement away from blanket restrictions that bring large, lasting and widespread costs, and towards measures targeted specifically at groups most at risk is now prudent”.

Thomas (2020) used the Judgement or J-value to compare the known economic effects of the 2007-9 recession on mortality with the anticipated increase in due to lockdown. He concluded: “The challenge for the UK Government will be to manage its interventions so that the inevitable impending recession is not significantly worse than that induced by the 2007–9 financial crash.”

With deaths – even in the short term – being attributable to delayed diagnoses, the long term implications are substantial. Jenkins et al. (2021), examined cancer outcomes in the UK and remarked “preventing COVID-19 deaths through lockdowns might result in more life-years being lost than saved”. Kampf and Kulldorff (2021) found rates of cancer diagnosis and chemotherapy, and emergency treatment of strokes and coronary disease, had fallen substantially and asked that all aspects of physical and mental health to be jointly considered in planning.

The infringements of lockdown on respect for autonomy are ubiquitous and include those at little or no risk from SARS-CoV-2 as well as the most vulnerable, whether or not they wish to be deprived of their liberty or wish others to be deprived of theirs. Lockdowns impinge on rights to liberty and security, freedom of expression, education, property and a private and family life, as enshrined in the Human Rights Act 1998, although exceptions may apply in the pursuit of health and the prevention of infectious disease (GOV 1998).

Lockdowns disproportionally affect poorer individuals and groups – in education, for example (Andrew et al. 2020) – and millions of people in less developed countries (World Bank 2020). It is difficult to see how they are just.

Whether proportionate in their impact on the liberties of a free and democratic society in part may be a matter of belief, but it remains doubtful that lockdowns have yielded meaningful further benefit against which any harms can be weighed.

As no scientific and epidemiological precedent has been established for the use of lockdowns, their implementation seems to contravene the planning guidelines of the ECDC (ECDC 2017), which requires the benefit-cost, feasibility, legal and ethical, risk mitigation, scientific and socio-political considerations to have been assessed in advance; and also of the UK DH (DH 2011a), which requires interventions to be evidence based or based on established best practice in the absence of evidence, based on ethical principles, and based on established practice and systems, as far as is possible.

The UK Government pandemic flu preparedness strategy refers to its own ethical framework (DH 2011a) noting it has “been reviewed by the Committee on Ethical Aspects of Pandemic Influenza (CEAPI) in the light of the experience of the H1N1 (2009) influenza pandemic and the Committee has concluded that it remains appropriate and fit for purpose in planning for a further pandemic”. The framework is referred to online (GOV 2017). It requires that:

“media and other people responsible for communications will have a role to play in ensuring that people know what the real situation is and what they need to do, without exaggerating or minimising the situation”

“people will have as much chance as possible to express concerns about or disagreement with decisions that affect them”

“plans will be adapted to take into account new information and changing circumstances”.

The supporting 2007 document is available in archived form (DH 2007). A Moral and Ethical Advisory Group (MEAG, MEAG 2020a), which supports SAGE, has adopted this framework. MEAG is primarily mandated with responding to requests (MEAG 2020b), and the available meeting summaries suggest it has not received a request to consider the fundamental ethical principles of the lockdown itself.

Follow the politics?

As late as March 19th, 2020 (Guardian News 2020), UK Government advisers advocated the pursuit of established pandemic guidelines and ethical principles, advancing to the introduction of low-stringency NPIs – including hand hygiene, social distancing, and isolating when sick. They acknowledged the uncertainties, the importance of truthfulness, the need to balance anticipated benefits against anticipated harms and to modify policy as more reliable evidence accumulated.

On March 23rd, this approach was dropped (GOV 2020) in favour of a lockdown with closures of schools – including primary – and non-essential businesses, mandatory stay-at-home orders, travel bans and bans on mixing between households. The scientific and epidemiological precedent for this lockdown policy was fragmentary, poor and arguably non-existent. No meaningful attempt seems to have been made to weigh supposed benefits against certain harms, or to formally consider the overall maximisation of health and use of resources.

The lockdown, as anticipated, has been harmful and appears to have delivered no benefit beyond low stringency measures such as those persisted with in Sweden. The NHS was not overwhelmed in April 2020 and the Nightingale field hospitals were not used. Neither was the NHS overwhelmed in January 2021 – by which time the NHS had had many months to prepare for a winter resurgence. However, the wave of infections followed a rise and fall typical of a seasonal respiratory virus (Merrow and Urban 2020; Audi et al. 2020) – and did so in most northern latitudes. There is no need to invoke lockdown stringency or vaccine roll out to explain it.

It is not clear why scientific understanding, pandemic planning principles and public health ethics were abandoned but, judging by statements of UK Government advisers, lockdowns were favoured by mathematical modellers who – with behavioural psychologists – appear to have been particularly influential: while the UK government advisers appeared to acknowledge the fallibility, inconsistency and predictive nature of simulations, paradoxically, they emphasised the importance of mathematical modelling and the behavioural sciences in formulating their advice (Guardian News 2020, Conn et al. 2020, Whipple 2020).

Seemingly oblivious to wider issues, Professor Ferguson is, for example, quoted – regarding the lockdown in China – as stating: “It’s a communist one party state, we said. We couldn’t get away with it in Europe, we thought… and then Italy did it. And we realised we could.” (Whipple 2020).

There was evident and considerable media pressure on the advisers – who are not politicians – to lockdown like other countries, seemingly irrespective of the consequences. For illustration, questioning Sir Patrick Vallance on March 13th 2020 (Sky News 2020), Stephen Dixon of Sky News UK began:

“The big question here is why the advice that is being given to our Government does seem to be different to the advice being given to many other governments who are taking much more stringent action…”

Regarding the percentage of the population that would need to be infected to reach herd immunity, he continued:

“Sixty percent?… I mean even with that, even looking at the sort of best case scenario… I know we were talking last week, we were saying… you know… half of one percent to one percent fatality in something like this, that’s an awful lot of people dying in this country….” (Sky News 2020, at 5:25 to 5:38 minutes).

An Infection Fatality Rate of 0.5 to 1.0 percent in the UK, with a population of about 68 million, would yield about 200,000 to 400,000 deaths.

This was an understandably frightening number. Perhaps the UK Government yielded to political and media pressure to favour a lockdown like “many other Governments” even though this went against scientific understanding and pandemic guidelines.

It may also explain why Sir Patrick has not subsequently abandoned lockdowns, despite the cost-benefit deficit – and despite the formal expectation that SAGE (2012) may advise on:

“the scientific and/or technical pros and cons of policy options identified by others”

“the degree of consensus (e.g. all, the majority, most, some or few experts agree)”

“differences in opinion (i.e., are there differences in scientific/technical opinion and what are the sources of disagreements?)”

“the degree and cause of uncertainty (e.g. confidence levels, margins of error and the reasons for not being more certain).”

On March 23rd, 2020, the ethical principles too were ignored. Truthful and proportionate communication, critical discussion and a flexible response to the pandemic as it unfolded not only ended, but was replaced with fear mongering, and one-sided shaming and vilification of those who resist or challenge the lockdown, which has become a totem (BBC 2020, Cohen 2021, O’Brien 2021). The concept that the virus is an ‘enemy’ is a scientific absurdity, but the Government and media have managed to construe an enemy within.

While, on the one hand, an eminent author of the Great Barrington Declaration (GBD 2020) – Sunetra Gupta, Oxford University Professor of Theoretical Epidemiology – has been singled out for criticism by a Member of Parliament (O’Brien 2021), on the other the President of the Royal Society of London has been reported as asking for mask refuseniks to be treated like drunk drivers who are a threat to health workers and grandmothers (Rawlinson 2020). This is about politics not science, and it is hard to see who would dare disagree – on legal, ethical or scientific grounds.

If this is the case, the media usurped the scientific role of SAGE, of leaders in public health preparedness and ethics and of the Government, becoming itself the primary arbiter of pandemic policy. In Sweden, by contrast, where the Public Health Agency (Folkhälsomyndigheten 2021) is insulated from political and media interference, Anders Tegnell and colleagues were able to pursue the conventional wisdom of pandemic preparedness relatively unmolested, fairing better than the UK and no worse than many other European countries in COVID-19 fatalities (see OutWorldinData.org). In Florida and South Dakota also, by contrast, more resilient elected leaders appear to have been unwilling to buckle to media pressure to lockdown.

At present, the Johnson administration constitutes a lockdown autocracy, and not one that appears likely to be replaced internally in its current inept state. It is sustained by borrowing and quantitative easing, and has enormous control over the life chances of much of the public. The media support it by seemingly endlessly propagation of fear and division, and the dismissal of comparative examples of relative success – Sweden, Belarus, Florida, South Dakota – where lockdowns were not pursued.

Mr. Johnson has proved how easily authoritarian government can be established in a democracy. The few rule in the name of the many and – it may predictably transpire – have among them profiteers and violators of laws the many are expected to follow (McNeill and Grey 2020, Campbell 2020).

Despite the objections of one of Britain’s most senior former judges (Sumption 2020a, b), it is startling to note the only successful challenge to the lockdown on legal grounds relates just to the awarding of contracts (Dyer 2021). No substantial judicial resistance to the lockdown has emerged despite the infringements of public health ethics and human rights, questionable benefit and the wide-ranging harm lockdown has caused and the abandonment of existing scientifically supported pandemic preparedness guidelines.

Conclusionleadership and accountability

Cnut the Great, King of England and Denmark, is said to have rebuked his sycophantic courtiers by demonstrating to them that he could not, in fact, command the tide.

Perhaps Cnut practiced leadership in a way that contemporary politicians do not – or cannot, where their re-election depends on a public perception of infallibility.

It is tempting though to wonder if Cnut had been advised by the present SAGE whether he would have known not to go to the shore when the tide was coming in, but to wait until the tide was going out before issuing the relevant command.

In Cnut’s day, the public – for common sense reasons – believed the sun circled around the earth. The reality, we now know, is the reverse.

It may seem common sense that lockdowns and cloth masks reduce the spread of seasonal respiratory viruses and save lives, but whether or not they really do is a question of science.

Being himself a biographer of Winston Churchill, Boris Johnson’s view (Johnson 2014) of his political idol is interesting. Regarding Churchill’s determination to continue the war against the Nazis following the fall of France, he has commented:

“They needed somebody of the scale of Churchill to deal with them, they needed somebody with the moral courage to take the decision he did. I’ve talked about the deciding to fight on in May 28th 1940. Well, a year from that date, thirty thousand British men, women and children had died. You cannot imagine any politician today having the courage to take that decision, but it was right. It was the right thing to do.” (Johnson 2014, at 37:26 to 37:55 minutes).

He adds, in comparison: “there are no politicians today who are fit to loose the latches of his sandals. I mean he was a… he was a one-off, and in a way it is a good thing and its thanks to Churchill that our times do not require such people.” (Johnson 2014, at 38:14 to 38:31 minutes).

Within weeks of Mr Johnson’s victory in the 2019 general election the COVID-19 pandemic emerged – and, if Britain needed a Churchill in March 2020, it didn’t get one.

Johnson is no Churchill. If he is a Cnut, he is one who having convinced the people he can control the tide, let them drown in it.

Why and how a ‘deadly embrace’ with media and politics led to the subversion of science in a public health emergency is beyond the scope of this article. However, it is essential that those responsible for legal and ethical breaches be formally censured and legislation introduced to prevent a future occurrence.

The co-authors are a PhD epidemiologist trained at a Russell Group University and a retired former Professor of Forensic Science and Biological Anthropology.

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