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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

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

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/

Vitamin D: Did a Prescribing Ban in Care Homes Contribute to Fatalities?

Smoked Salmon: A great source of Vitamin D. Order from Bleiker’s Smokehouse in Yorkshire

Key points

Vitamin D, contrary to popular thought, is not a vitamin. It is an inflammation-regulating steroid hormone involved in many of the body’s essential processes.1 Leaked NHS internal guidance, issued in June 2020, states that “evidence supports a causal role in Vitamin D status and COVID-19 outcomes”, and urges clinicians to “monitor, report and treat”.2

Meanwhile, a NICE rapid evidence review also published in June, states “there is no evidence to support taking vitamin D supplements to specifically prevent or treat COVID‑19.” However, it does re-enforce its September 2018 advice that at-risk groups should take a 10µg supplement all year round.3

Rewind to March 2018: the ‘world’s biggest quango’ NHS England, released new guidance not to issue Vitamin D and many other commonly available over-the-counter (OTC) medicines on prescription, which was intended to save NHS costs by promoting patient self-care.4

Vulnerable elderly care home residents, many of whom lack mental capacity, are unable to obtain Vitamin D without a prescription, as Care and Quality Commission (CQC) regulations prevent tablets being given by care staff without GP Guidance.5

This logistical deadlock has not been resolved, and Vitamin D deficiency has long been known to be widespread in care homes.6 Over 19,000 care home residents in England have died with COVID-19, representing at least 36% of all COVID-19 fatalities in England and Wales.7 8

Defining evidence: why the different guidelines?

Evidence is increasing that Vitamin D deficiency is causally linked to both likelihood of contracting COVID-19, and severity of infection.9

The NICE rapid evidence review,3 which states there is “no specific evidence” for Vitamin D in COVID-19, is heavily focused on the outcomes of the eight included studies, without corroborating this with the known physiological mechanism for how Vitamin D attenuates the inflammatory cascade in the lungs with coronaviruses.10 The physiology surely somewhat dispels the caution that NICE have that the correlation between low Vitamin D and severe COVID-19 may be incidental, or weakened by potential ‘confounders’. Confounders are factors which account for, or mask, an association. However, the confounders that the NICE review3 claim weaken three of the included studies could may actually strengthen when causal inference is considered. These confounders mentioned by NICE for Covid-19 severity included obesity, high blood pressure and socio-economic status: these are all independently linked to low vitamin D status.11 12 13 Could Vitamin D status, therefore, be the common link? The physiological mechanism would support this. The NICE rapid evidence has excluded relevant data on countries affected by COVID-19 and their latitude, showing countries such as the UK, who are above the 30 ̊north latitude line, meaning there is not enough light for the skin to make Vitamin D all year round. Interestingly, in the UK, there is not enough sunlight between October and March, 6 meaning deficiency would be at its peak in the population at the end of March.

In short, the leaked report, now a published study,2 is more comprehensive and credible than the NICE rapid evidence review, as it includes all the circumstantial as well as the forensic evidence.

Figure 1: SARS-CoV-2 enters the cell via the ACE-2 receptors within the renin-angiotensin system (RAS). Image courtesy of R&D systems.10

How vitamin D protects against COVID-19

Vitamin D acts to re-balance the renin angiotensin system (RAS). This is a hormone system that regulates blood pressure, fluid balance and vascular resistance. It is the dysregulation of the RAS that creates the pro-inflammatory cytokine storm in COVID-19, triggering the potentially fatal severe acute respiratory infection. Vitamin D moderates the RAS by binding to the ACE 2 receptor cells, attenuating the inflammatory response and lung injury. 9 10

Known risk factors and vitamin D status

Well-known risk factors for COVID-19 have been well publicised to be age, obesity, ethnicity and socio-economic status. While there are social factors at play that increase risk for some groups, could Vitamin D also provide a physiological reason these groups are also at risk of severe COVID-19 infection? A very interesting study conducted in Israel showed that COVID-19 outcomes were worse in communities where traditional dress was worn, and where individuals had poor vitamin D status. This took into account and adjusted for baseline characteristics such as age.14

Table 1: Some better known risk factors for Covid-19 and their known link to Vitamin D deficiency

Risk FactorLinked to low Vitamin D?Linked to Covid-19?
EthnicityDarker skin less able to absorb. If cultural clothing covers skin, UV light cannot be absorbed 14BAME communities identified in UK as more susceptible
ObesityVitamin D is fat soluble, and dilutes into fat cells, making it less available13Obese identified as more likely to require ICU admission for COVID-19
Socio-economic statusAn independent risk factor for Vitamin D deficiency11Thought to be due to social factors such as working in hospitality and living in densely populated areas.
Type II Diabetes
VD protects against T2 diabetes by reducing parathyroid levels1 6NHS trusts reported in spring that type II diabetics were more likely to require ICU treatment
Older ageSkin is less able to absorb with age3 6The majority (estimated 74%) of COVID-19 deaths have occurred in over 70s.

Death stats for nerds

The evidence is increasingly undeniable that Vitamin D is linked to COVID-19. We also know that Vitamin D is not routinely given to residents in care homes,5 and in general, the guidance to take supplements is not widely promoted. Could this be partly to blame of the shockingly large number of deaths this year in England’s care homes?

The following data have been compiled by this author from the published ONS Excel spreadsheets on deaths in care homes,7 and total deaths attributed to COVID-19 in England and Wales8 with some totals and percentages worked out, so they can be viewed in a context that wouldn’t be seen on the BBC news.

Table 2: Covid-19 Death statistics for care homes in England

Percentage of all COVID-19 deaths (England and Wales) who are care home residents in England*36% (19,726 of 54,678)
Percentage of deaths of all causes (England and Wales) who were care home residents in England17% (84,740 of 494,975)
Percentage of care home COVID-19 deaths that occurred in the care home and not in hospital (indicating only palliative treatment offered)75% (14,722 of 19,726)
Percentage of all England and Wales COVID-19 fatalities over 80 years of age61% (33,352 of 54,678)
Percentage of all England and Wales COVID-19 fatalities over 70 years of age74% (40,696 of 54,678)

*This is likely to be an underestimate, as ONS state that deaths recorded early in the pandemic were not attributed to COVID-19. 8

A shocking 36% of all deaths in England and Wales attributed to COVID-19 have been of care home residents under NHS England. These are the most vulnerable in our society, and have already been failed in many respects through the pandemic, as limited resources and PPE were prioritised for the NHS.

Ambiguity and conflicting guidelines preventing treatment

Before Vitamin D was linked to COVID-19, there was already an inequality with Vitamin D provision, detailed in this study. A Catch-22 between the NHS England prescribing ban, the CQC strict policing of supplement administration, and a failure of Local Authority Public Health promotion of existing guidelines (10µg per day), meant that giving much-needed Vitamin D supplementation to care home residents fell through a large but unnoticed gap between different agencies’ responsibilities, rules and regulations.4 5

Given that most of the deaths from COVID-19 occurred in care homes and not in hospital, we may never know how many of these were vitamin D deficient, as recent blood tests are less likely to be available. However, the circumstantial evidence is stacking up well that this failure may have contributed to the care home death toll.

The million dollar question is, was NHS England’s do not prescribe guidance ever intended for care home residents in the first place? The document describes items not to be routinely prescribed in primary care. Primary care by definition, is ‘first’ point of contact care, e.g. an independent person rocking up to their GP and requesting a prescription. Quite rightly, if this prescription request is for something cheaply and easily available at the pharmacist, that person should go straight there. However, it could be argued that care home residents are not directly linking in with primary care, but their main source of care is in the tertiary/social care sector. Therefore, the NHS England prescribing guidance is arguably not applicable to them. Were local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG’s) ever intended to issue guidance that a care home resident with limited capacity should be responsible for their own Vitamin D as ‘self-care’, when all their other medications would be controlled on their prescription? Or was this a tragic error of interpretation by CCG’s of what is actually shockingly ambiguous guidance?

We don’t have the answer to that now, but this author has submitted a Freedom of Information request to obtain it. So within 20 days, we may have.

If the answer is no, then vulnerable care and nursing home residents have been left without a simple and cheap treatment that could have protected them from COVID-19 because of a misinterpretation of an ambiguous guideline, and because no-one along the chain of events sought to clarify it. If the answer is yes, it was intended for care home residents, then the next question is – why?

That answer is in the guidance – it’s to reduce NHS prescribing costs. But by now much? The recommended dose required to maintain good blood vitamin D levels and to prevent deficiency is 10µg, equivalent to 400 International Units (IU’s).6 Two months’ supply of a 100IU tablet (taken every other day, giving 12.5µg/500IU’s per day) can be obtained for as little as 59p by the NHS. That’s a cost of 30p per patient per month.15

Conclusion

The combination of loneliness, lockdown, and denial of a cheap and evidence-based treatment amounts to an abysmal failure of the most vulnerable members of our society. As we are locked down again, and the economy left to likely ruin, why is this safe, well-evidenced and ridiculously cheap treatment being ignored? This has to stop now. NHS England must review their position, and allow for and actively promote prescribing to those who cannot buy Vitamin D. If this Government really cared, instead of ‘stay home, protect the NHS, save lives’, they would stay ‘stay sane, take vitamin D, you could survive’.

References

1 Bilke, D.et al.: Vitamin D, an ancient hormone. Available at https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1562/2005-02-02-IR-430. Accessed 5th November 2020.

2 Davies, G. et al.: Covid-19 and Vitamin D information. Available at https://docs.google.com/document/d/1jffdZOSuIA64L_Eur8qyCQ12T7NXrHSKPxtMe134C0Y/mobilebasic?fbclid=IwAR0lYaw5dKPFd-vUmvTm5GD8uZYZ_E6Hl9SSj32FjuuCkJBy-YB6heKy30w. Accessed 4th November 2020.

3 National Institute of Clinical Excellence: COVID-19 rapid evidence summary: Vitamin D for COVID-19. Available at https://www.nice.org.uk/advice/es28/evidence. Accessed 4th November 2020.

4 NHS England: Conditions for which over the counter items should not be routinely prescribed in primary care. March 2018. Available at: https://www.england.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/otc-guidance-for-ccgs.pdf. Accessed 4th November 2020.

5 Williams, J et al.: Responsibility for vitamin D supplementation of elderly care home residents in England: falling through the gap between medicine and food. Available at https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.06.21.20136697v1. Accessed 5th November 2020.

6 SACN (Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition). Vitamin D and health. London, 2016 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/sacn-vitamin-d-and-health-report

7 Office for National Statistics: Number of deaths in care homes reported to the Care Quality Commission. Available at https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/datasets/numberofdeathsincarehomesnotifiedtothecarequalitycommissionengland. Accessed 4th November 2020.

8 Office for National Statistics: Deaths registered weekly in England and Wales, provisional. Available at: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/datasets/weeklyprovisionalfiguresondeathsregisteredinenglandandwales. Accessed 4th November 2020.

9 Davies, G. et al: Evidence supports a causal role for Vitamin D status and Covid-19 outcomes. Available at https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.05.01.20087965v3. Accessed 4th November 2020.

10 R&D systems: ACE-2: The Receptor for SARS-Cov-2.AVilale at https://www.rndsystems.com/resources/articles/ace-2-sars-receptor-identified. Accessed 4th November 2020.

11 J Léger-Guist’hau et al. Low socio-economic status is a newly identified independent risk factor for poor vitamin D status in severely obese adults. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27524803/. Accessed 4th November 2020.

12 Pils, S. et al.: Vitamin D status and arterial hypertension: a systematic review. Available at: https://www.nature.com/articles/nrcardio.2009.135. (Abstract). Accessed 4th November 2020

13 Walsh, J. et al.: Vitamin D in obesity. Available at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28915134/. Accessed 4th November 2020.

14 Israel, A. et al.: The link between vitamin D deficiency and Covid-19 in a large population. September 2020. Available at https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.09.04.20188268v1.full.pdf. Accessed 4th November 2020

15 drugtarriff.co.uk: https://www.drugtariff.co.uk/DrugInfo/drugdetails.aspx?doseid=580784. Accessed4th November 2020.

Latest News

ONS: Flu and Pneumonia Have Killed More People Than Covid Since June

Blower’s latest cartoon in the Telegraph. He must be a lockdown sceptic.

That’s the headline finding in the ONS’s latest release, as far as the Telegraph is concerned. But there’s another pretty striking finding in the second paragraph too.

Influenza and pneumonia has contributed to more weekly deaths than COVID-19 since the middle of June, new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show.

Just 78 people died of coronavirus in the week ending September 4th – the latest for which death registrations are available – the first time the figure has fallen below 100 since lockdown began in March.

Just one per cent of deaths now mention coronavirus on the death certificate compared to 12.8% which mention influenza and pneumonia, making those conditions nearly 13 times more deadly.

The numbers of overall deaths has also plummeted well below the five-year average for England and Wales, with 1,443 fewer deaths in the most recent weekly figures.

This is a bit awkward for the Government. The day after its new draconian “Rule of Six” regulations are introduced, the ONS reveals there were fewer deaths in the week ending September 4th.

Worth reading in full.

Noel Gallagher: Sceptic of the Week

Noel Gallagher performs on stage during day 1 of Madcool Festival on July 11th, 2019 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Mariano Regidor/Redferns)

The NME has written a furious piece about Noel Gallagher, the rock star, who has said he refuses to wear a mask in shops.

Noel Gallagher has said he refuses to wear a face mask while shopping, in defiance of laws which were introduced earlier this year.

Appearing on The Matt Morgan podcast, the former Oasis singer described the use of face coverings as “bollocks”, after they were introduced in an attempt to curb the spread of coronavirus.

“The whole thing’s bollocks. You’re supposed to wear them in Selfridges, yet you can f***ing go down the pub and be surrounded by every f***ing c**t. Do you know what I mean? It’s like, ‘Oh actually, we don’t have the virus in pubs but we have it in Selfridges?’,” Gallagher said.

Wearing a face covering over your nose and mouth is mandatory by law in all shops and supermarkets in the UK, although exemptions are in place for children under 11 and people with health issues.

They are also compulsory on public transport, with Gallagher recalling how he refused to wear a covering on a recent train journey to Manchester.

The podcast is well worth a listen. The bit when Gallagher explains why he refused to wear a mask on the train is gold. He makes exactly the same point James Delingpole did on Sunday in his piece about why the mask-wearing rules on planes are such nonsense.

Like I was going up to Manchester the other week and some guy’s going, “Can you put your mask on?” On the train. And he said, “Because the Transport Police will get on and fine you £1,000, but you don’t have to put it on if you’re eating.” So I was saying, “Oh right. So this killer virus that’s sweeping through the train is going to come and attack me but is going to see me having a sandwich and go, “Leave him. He’s having his lunch.”

The podcaster he’s talking to tries to justify the policy, but Gallagher just says “bollocks”. “The science says they’re pointless,” he says. When the presenter disagrees and says he “read something earlier” saying masks are effective, Gallagher cuts him off: “F*** off. You only read things that reinforce your own opinions.”

A worthy winner of Sceptic of the Week.

Stop Press: The podcast is no longer available on YouTube – but of course.

A Nation of Bedwetters

Unfortunately, Noel Gallagher is an outlier. YouGov has just published some depressing polling: a whopping 69% of Brits – and a majority of all age groups – say they would support a 9pm curfew on pubs and bars to help reduce COVID-19 cases.

As Julia Hartley Brewer asked on Twitter, what the hell has happened to this country? We used to be in favour of… you know… fun.

You can see the polling here.

An MP Writes…

Sir Gary Streeter, Conservative MP for South West Devon

A reader wrote a letter to his MP, Sir Gary Streeter, questioning the scientific basis for the Rule of Six and saying he wasn’t minded to follow it, or to wear a mask. This was the reply he got. Bedwetting MP of the week?

Dear Mr Martin,

Thank you for your email which I am afraid wins the prize for being the most irresponsible communication I have had this year.

We have suffered over 42,000 excessive deaths in this country due to this virus and no doubt it is partly being spread by irresponsible people such as yourself. I urge you to reconsider as the second spike threatens another wave of serious illness and death as we approach winter. You will be aware that the police have increased powers to ensure that social distancing is enforced.

Kind regards,

Gary Streeter

Stop Press: Another contender for Bedwetter of the Week has hoved into view: David Nabarro, one of the WHO’s special envoys on Covid, who testified before the Foreign Affairs Committee in the House of Commons yesterday. The summary on AOL is quite something:

The world is still at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, and it will take some time to work out how to deal with it, an expert has told MPs.

David Nabarro, who is one of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) special envoys on COVID-19, told the Foreign Affairs Committee the present situation is horrible and grotesque.

He said the outbreak is worse than any science fiction movie, and appears to be getting nastier as cases reemerge in Europe.

Worse than any science fiction movie? So worse than Contagion, in which a rogue virus wipes out the human race? Sorry for the spoiler, but come on!

SAGE Knows All About the False Positive Rate

Handy Cock: Does he know the false positive rate?

We got an excellent email yesterday from one of the regular commentators – DocRC. He was an NHS GP for 25 years and now works in sports medicine. He’s done some sleuthing and discovered that SAGE knows all about false positives, although it isn’t clear whether the information has been shared with Matt Hancock.

I read the letter in today’s update written by the Trafford GP to her MP Graham Brady. In it she said she had been trying in vain to get information about PCR false positive rates and cycle thresholds out of the local health bureaucrats. I too have corresponded in vain with a local (Cambridge) Pathologist who couldn’t or wouldn’t answer the same questions. Then this morning a friend who used to be the Medical Director of a biotech company reported drawing a blank from a contact in Oxford’s Immunology Department. The twin questions of false positive rates (especially at low prevalence levels) and cycle thresholds (the number of cycles they run the PCR tests before deciding whether it is positive or negative) are absolutely key to understanding the published figures of “cases”. Actually, I could add a third one which is the percentage of those tested who are symptomatic.

My friend, the ex-Medical Director has just come up trumps. He has found a paper by two people who work for NHS England which says:

“The UK operational false positive rate is unknown. There are no published studies on the operational false positive rate of any national COVID-19 testing programme. An attempt has been made to estimate the likely false-positive rate of national COVID-19 testing programmes by examining data from published external quality assessments (EQAs) for RT-PCR assays for other RNA viruses carried out between 2004-2019 [7]. Results of 43 EQAs were examined, giving a median false positive rate of 2.3% (interquartile range 0.8-4.0%).”

The paper is here.

So we know that The Government, or at least its scientific advisors, know that the false positive rate for the Covid test is in the range of 0.8-4% with a median of 2.3%.

This of course confirms what James Ferguson was saying in his analysis a couple of days ago, that the vast majority of so-called “cases” are the result of false positive tests, i.e. on people who don’t have the virus.

Let us look at the Government statistics, the latest of which I could find is to August 26th:

So to take the week ending August 26th, the total tests were 452,679 out of which 6,732 were positive. The positives were 1.487% which is well within the estimated false positive range of 0.8-4% so they could all be false positives!

Then I found another paper by said Carl Mayers of NHS England which was apparently submitted to SAGE meeting 41 (June 11th)

There is a table on page 6 of the document (see below) which shows that at low prevalence of Covid the majority of positive tests are expected to be false positives. So at a prevalence of 0.1% they expect 209 positives of which 200 will be false positives and 1% prevalence 288 positives of which 198 are false positives.

This blows the whole test and trace program out of the water and of course makes operation moonshot even more ridiculous than it ever was – if you test the whole UK population of 67 million you will get 1.5 million false positives! Go figure, Hancock!

I wonder if we could get Carl Heneghan to comment on this?

Unmasked

https://vimeo.com/457759052/b06773463e

My friend Roger Bowles, with whom I made a 15-minute film about Brexit in 2016, is making a documentary about Covid called Unmasked: The Virus and the Disease. He’s looking to include stories from ordinary people – like you and me, dear reader – about how they’ve been affected by the pandemic. Message from Roger below.

Unmasked: The Virus and the Disease will be a feature-length documentary that will follow the progress of Corona from its sensational debut in January as the only player on the world stage, through those salad days of early Lockdown and clapping the NHS, and into the autumn as we try to navigate our way through contradictory rules and ranks of “Covid Marshals” towards our doubtful economic future. The narrative will be told through contributions from experts, footage from the mainstream and alternative media, and – crucially – through the stories and experiences of ordinary people.

We are seeking contributors who are willing to speak on camera about their experiences, particularly the impact that Lockdown and other measures have had on them or their loved ones. All submissions will be dealt with in strict confidence and if it is necessary to protect identities we will do so.

We are also looking for material – video, photos, letters, emails, recordings – that evoke the strangely heightened experiences of this socially distanced year.

The film’s tone will be reflective and, where possible, lighthearted, seeking to balance the seriousness of the main theme, so we are looking for uplifting stories too.

As we move around the country filming over the next few weeks we will be putting out calls for certain kinds of stories or material, or announcing that we are visiting particular places. It would be hugely helpful if you could follow us, like our posts and tweets, comment, and share them if you can.

Website: https://unmasked-doco.net/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/UnmaskedDoco/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/UnmaskedDoco

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9zh2-e15WDRC9mTXXeJiSQ

Finally, like many others, our industry is decimated and we are time rich but cash poor. If you are able to make a donation to support the project we would be very grateful.

GoFundMe: https://www.gofundme.com/f/unmasked-the-virus-and-the-disease

Government Responds to Vaccine Petition

Will this be the price of being allowed to leave our homes?

The Government has responded to a petition asking it not to impose any restrictions on people who refuse to have a Covid vaccine. It has over 125,000 signatures. You can read the full response here, but one reader has drawn my attention to the following paragraph which she thinks is very sinister:

We believe it is everyone’s responsibility to do the right thing for their own health, and for the benefit of the wider community. There are currently no plans to introduce a COVID-19 vaccine in a way that penalises those who do not take up the vaccine. However, the Government will carefully consider all options to improve vaccination rates, should that be necessary.

Should we be worried about this? I’m not an anti-vaxxer, but I certainly don’t think people should be penalised by the Government for refusing to be vaccinated, particularly if said vaccines are being rushed out during an episode of mass hysteria and the manufacturers have been absolved of legal liability. From the wording of that paragraph, it sounds like the Government hasn’t ruled that out.

Covid Death and Taxes

I was forwarded another penetrating analysis of the Covid crisis by a financial researcher today – this one by Louis-Vincent Gave, who runs a firm called Gavekal Research with Anatole Kaletsky, the much-revered financial journalist. I thought it was so good I immediately emailed Louis-Vincent (his address was at the foot of the document) and asked if him I could publish it on Lockdown Sceptics. Turns out, he’s a fan of the Spectator so he said yes. Not only is he a brilliant analyst, but he’s also the Chairman of the Biarritz Olympique Pays Basque Rugby Club and is engaged in an ongoing negotiation with his local prefet (unelected regional official) to allow the fans back into the stadium. So an all-round good egg.

Here’s the section in which he speculates about why Governments across the West are continuing to vacillate over lifting restrictions when political leaders must know that the virus only poses a mortal threat to people in their 80s and 90s with co-morbidities.

So, given that death rates are now at long-term lows, and that the disease only seems disproportionately to kill folks coming to the natural end of their lives, why are policymakers still bickering about the reopening of schools (the UK), whether restaurants should be allowed to welcome patrons (New York), whether kids should be forbidden to go trick-or-treating this Halloween (Los Angeles), whether organised sports should even take place (France), and over the resumption of a dozen other everyday activities?

The first possible explanation is that policymakers are consciously making the choice to protect the old, even at the economic expense of the young. And they are doing this out of political calculation, because old people are more likely to vote than the young. However, this explanation runs counter to Hanlon’s razor, which states: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”

The second possible explanation is that policymakers, having stumbled into this crisis, have now seized on the Rahm Emmanuel dictum “never let a good crisis go to waste”. For the last decade, lacklustre growth across the Western world has led to events as unfortunate (for policymakers) as the Brexit vote, Donald Trump’s election, the rise of the French yellow jacket movement, and the rise of the AfD in Germany and of Matteo Salvini in Italy. In other words, the sort of “pre-revolutionary” grumblings Gavekal warned of almost a decade ago are becoming ever-louder.

Disconcerted by this increasing roar, a number of policymakers have concluded that western economies are suffering from a lack of government intervention, combined with a shortage of fiscal spending, and insufficient money-printing. But cometh the crisis, cometh the moment to embark on the sort of Keynesian orgy my business partner Anatole Kaletsky has lately been applauding (see Why I Was Wrong To Turn Bearish). If to a hammer every problem looks like a nail, then to a large section of western policymakers, the answer to every problem increasingly seems to be more money-printing and more money-spending.

Of course, the real problem may not be Covid, but something else entirely. But then policymakers will use the pandemic as the pretext to embark on policies to fix the “something else”. This means they need to keep Covid humming in the background. How else could they justify the gradual introduction of some form of universal basic income funded by Modern Monetary Theory or MMT (the magic money tree)? Combine this with a healthy dose of Parkinson’s Law at work, and governments have little incentive to walk back on any of their panic-mongering. After all, now that government commissions have been formed and funded to deal with the pandemic, are these commissions going to be in any rush to declare the pandemic over? Or are they more likely to insist that Covid remains a major threat, and that they need more funding to counter it?

Finally, the third and most likely explanation is that western governments were panicked into taking dramatic decisions. This panic was likely driven partly by the increased weight of social media in decision-making. Not that the absence of social media in the early years of the 21st century helped the US government take the right decisions in the aftermath of 9/11; the invasion of Iraq was one of the greatest policy failures in a generation. Now it is likely the Covid lockdowns will rank alongside Iraq in the policy failure “hall of shame”. And from there, the important question is at what point do repeated policy failures start to take their toll? We know from Adam Smith’s remark that “there is a great deal of ruin in a nation.” But still…

I wasn’t familiar with Hanlon’s Razor: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” This, I realise, is virtually the motto of Lockdown Sceptics and one of the reasons I’m sceptical about conspiracy theories.

Louis-Vincent’s analysis is great – worldly, cynical and wise. Worth reading in full.

Gary Lineker Takes a Pay Cut and Agrees to Tweet More Carefully – Then Fires Off Rude Tweet

I decided to have a poke at Gary Lineker, the Match of the Day presenter, when the newspapers reported he’d volunteered to take a 25% pay cut and agreed to be more careful in his use of Twitter. I sent the following tweet.

https://twitter.com/toadmeister/status/1305834509917728768

To which Gary replied:

https://twitter.com/GaryLineker/status/1305841158954913792

To which I replied:

https://twitter.com/toadmeister/status/1305859452147568641

Couldn’t help noticing Gary’s reply to me got over 20,000 likes, while my reply to him got 120. But bitter? Moi? No. Of course not.

Stop Press: According to the Times, 250,000 fewer people bought TV licenses last year compared to the year before.

New NHS Tracing App – Now Even Worse

Our dedicated NHS tracing app correspondent – a well-informed techie – has sent us his latest update. One day, this app will be studied in the Kennedy School of Government as one of the biggest administrative cock-ups of all time

Christmas might be cancelled but as compensation Matt Hancock has the latest incarnation of the gift that keeps on giving – the NHS COVID-19 app. Like all the other failed contact-tracing apps around the world, this one tries to work out how close you are to other app users by the strength of a bluetooth signal. If the app reckons you have been within two metres of another app user for 15 minutes or more, regardless of circumstances, then it makes a note of an identifier broadcast by the other phone. This is the Apple/Google system which is entirely anonymous, so as the user you have the responsibility for telling the app if you are positive, in which case it uploads its anonymous identifier to Apple or Google’s cloud where other apps can see it and check against their own list of phones they were near and alert their users. Apple and Google handle all this and the NHS is not involved. But they would very much like to be so if you do receive an alert the app butts in and asks if you wouldn’t mind awfully contacting Public Health England to “complete a form about who you know you’ve been in contact with recently”. A form, not in the app.

As an aside for those involved in the mask debate, the app instructions say that tracking can be paused if the user is “wearing medical grade PPE, i.e. a surgical mask, in a health and care setting”. So not just a face covering at the shops then.

Exposure alerting is not all this app fails to do. Indeed, its big selling point is the QR code business check-in function. Alerting might be useless but this function is worse as it can lead to you breaking the law. It appears to be in support of the Government’s announcement on Sept 10th that businesses and venues are required by law to record contact details of all staff and visitors and store them for 21 days to be shared with NHS Test and Trace if requested. There are fixed penalties for organisations that don’t comply. The Government has provided a handy service which can create posters for your business or venue displaying a big QR code that can only be read by their app. The problem is as a venue owner if you only use the government’s app and posters you will be breaking the law because the app only knows which business you checked-in to and when, which is not enough to comply with the law. Even that data is not shared from the app to the venue owners who are required to collect your name, phone number and make a note of which staff were working there at the same time. So if you just put up the posters and ask everyone to use them, when NHS Test and Trace come calling you won’t have anything to give them and that is illegal from September 18th. Another winner from Matt Hancock and team.

Carl Heneghan Strikes Again

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dxLDJJb1_KI

In a development that was reported almost nowhere, the Scottish Government announced yesterday that it was changing the way it counts Covid hospitalisations. Previously, it counted all patients who had tested positive for COVID-19 in its hospitalisations data, even if they’d made a complete recovery from Covid, left the hospital, resumed their normal life and were then readmitted for a completely different reason. Now, only patients who first test positive in their current hospital admission (or in the two weeks before admission) will be included in the figures.

There’s an explainer here from the Office of the Chief Statistician. He says the reason for the change is because the Office of the Chief Statistician carried out an audit of the 384 hospital patients who were designated as having Covid in the official data on August 26th and found that 87% of them were in hospital “for a condition unrelated to COVID-19”.

But is that the real reason? I suspect it had more to do with this September 2nd blog post by Carl Heneghan, Daniel Howdon and Jason Oke entitled, “Is Scotland overcounting the number of patients in hospital beds?” They pointed out that In England 7.7 per million of the population are supposedly in hospital with Covid, but in Scotland 46.8 per million are in a hospital bed with Covid – a rate that is nearly six times higher. They more or less nail the reason, as you’d expect.

This is similar to the problem with the PHE issue with deaths in England, which meant previously that everyone who has ever had COVID at any time must die with COVID too…

The problem matches the pattern of poor quality data whereby COVID analyses have overestimated the true extent of the problems. It is, therefore, essential that we have data that we can trust, data that is verifiable and reported in the same way across the devolved nations to permit comparisons.

Poor quality data! That must have stung the Chief Statistician (Roger Halliday). I expect someone in Wee Krankie’s office called him up and gave him a rocket. Can’t have the Scottish Government producing poor quality data, particularly when the hated English tidied up their own Covid data a few weeks ago – again, thanks to a Carl Heneghan blog post.

Keep it up Carl.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Just one today: “Ain’t No Turning Back” by Prime Minister.

Love in the Time of Covid

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

Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. This latest one – from the University of Chicago, no less – is a doozy.

Statement from the Univerity of Chicago’s English Faculty (July 2020)

The English department at the University of Chicago believes that Black Lives Matter, and that the lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and Rayshard Brooks matter, as do thousands of others named and unnamed who have been subject to police violence. As literary scholars, we attend to the histories, atmospheres, and scenes of anti-Black racism and racial violence in the United States and across the world. We are committed to the struggle of Black and Indigenous people, and all racialized and dispossessed people, against inequality and brutality.

For the 2020-2021 graduate admissions cycle, the University of Chicago English Department is accepting only applicants interested in working in and with Black Studies. We understand Black Studies to be a capacious intellectual project that spans a variety of methodological approaches, fields, geographical areas, languages, and time periods. For more information on faculty and current graduate students in this area, please visit our Black Studies page.

English as a discipline has a long history of providing aesthetic rationalizations for colonization, exploitation, extraction, and anti-Blackness. Our discipline is responsible for developing hierarchies of cultural production that have contributed directly to social and systemic determinations of whose lives matter and why. And while inroads have been made in terms of acknowledging the centrality of both individual literary works and collective histories of racialized and colonized people, there is still much to do as a discipline and as a department to build a more inclusive and equitable field for describing, studying, and teaching the relationship between aesthetics, representation, inequality, and power.

So does this mean every faculty member in the Chicago English department who is a white male will immediately resign his position to make room for a person of colour who can then teach Black Studies?

Didn’t think so.

One of the curious things about statements like this, in which middle-aged white men genuflect before the woke mob and engage in a sort of ritualised self-flagellation, is how similar they all are. At the height of the BLM madness, when university vice-chancellors were pumping out this gobbledegook by the bucket-load, I hawked an idea around to various media outlets which I thought was quite funny. I would create a website called “Plagiarism Watch” that purported to be maintained by a group of Wokesters that pointed out the similarity between the BLM solidarity statements issued by heads of universities and accuse them of plagiarism. I would run the statements through the plagiarism-detection software that’s used by universities to ferret out cheaters and, presumably, each would be flagged as blatant plagiarism. My hope was that after, say, the President of Princeton’s statement was identified as plagiarised by “Plagiarism Watch” – “Racism and the damage it does to people of color nevertheless persist at Princeton as in our society, sometimes by conscious intention but more often through unexamined assumptions and stereotypes, ignorance or insensitivity, and the systemic legacy of past decisions and policies… etc., etc.” – he would immediately issue a grovelling apology and then publish another 1,000 words of gobbledegook (no doubt written by the same beleaguered drudge in Princeton’s Office of Communications). The point, of course, isn’t that these statements are literally plagiarised – although some may be, I suppose. No, the reason they’re all the same is because they’re the product of group think. And because anyone saying anything remotely thoughtful or original about racism will immediately be targeted by a woke mob for being insufficiently pious. (“Just one knee? Why not two? Why not hurl yourself to the ground and rend your garments? How dare you, you racist bastard.”)

Needless to say, no one was prepared to commission this piece of mischief.

Please send Lockdown Sceptics any examples of woke gobbledegook you come across.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

A Louis Vuitton Covid face shield. Yours for the very reasonable price of $960.

We’ve created a permanent slot down here for people who want to buy (or make) a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and it has the advantage of not explicitly claiming you have a disability. But if you have no qualms about that (or you are disabled), you can buy a lanyard from Amazon saying you do have a disability/medical exemption here (now showing it will arrive between Oct 17th to Oct 27th). 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.

Don’t forget to sign the petition on the UK Government’s petitions website calling for an end to mandatory face nappies in shops here (now over 32,000).

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

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

Stop Press: We got a nice email from a non-masker yesterday.

I don’t wear masks and the natural contrarian within me makes me less likely to do so when it’s been mandated. So, throughout this whole debacle I’ve been quite staunch in upholding my right not to wear a mask. I’ve not made a big song and dance about it – I just simply go about my normal business, breathing the lovely fresh air Suffolk has to offer.

I’ve always been a bit worried about how I might react if challenged by a shopkeeper or fellow citizen. But wouldn’t you know it – I’ve never been challenged. I’ve been going about my normal life, doing the things I would normally do, being greeted the whole time with warmth and a sense of normality.

But actually, normality isn’t quite an accurate description. I’ve actually received more warm-heartedness from shop keepers, folks on the checkout, the chap at the builders merchants and the lady that runs the post office, than I had before this whole nonsense started. And I’m not wearing a mask the whole time.

The result is that I reciprocate this warmth, spark up conversation, and all at once it feels like a throwback to merry old England when the shopkeeper would greet you on first-name terms. Perhaps these folks on the coalface feel a rare sense of ease when seeing an un-muzzled face? Maybe it’s just my own experience, but going out maskless has been great for morale, and seemingly for the people I’ve come into contact with. I urge others to give it a go – spread a little joy.

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.

And Finally…

In this week’s London Calling podcast, James Delingpole and I indulge in the usual rants about the lockdown, the Wokesters and our flailing political leaders. At one point, James and I discuss what it’s like to have been effectively killed by an online outrage mob (as I was) and then to have resurfaced with renewed vigour (as I have) – like Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars. I said to James, “We should come up with a name for these people” and he immeidately suggested “Obi-Wankers”. Hence the title of this week’s episode. Please do have a listen and don’t forget to subscribe.

Latest News

Lockdown 3.0 – If at First You Don’t Succeed…

Boris Johnson gave a televised address to the nation yesterday in which he announced a new national lockdown, instructing the population yet again to “stay home, protect the NHS, save lives”. The Telegraph has the details:

Boris Johnson has plunged England into a third national lockdown to try to curb the rapid spread of coronavirus, as the country moved to Covid Alert Level 5.

The lockdown means people will only be able to leave their homes for limited reasons, with measures expected to stay in place until mid-February.

In an address to the nation, the Prime Minister said the new coronavirus variant – which is 50 to 70% more transmissible – was spreading in a “frustrating and alarming” manner.

“As I speak to you tonight, our hospitals are under more pressure from Covid than at any time since the start of the pandemic,” he said.

The regulations are expected to be laid before Parliament on Tuesday, January 5th, with MPs retrospectively being given a vote after they are recalled early from the Christmas break on January 6th.

The third national lockdown, the strictest since last spring, begins immediately.

The new rules include:

  • Everyone living in England has been told to stay at home, and only to go out for specific reasons. Mr Johnson said: “You may only leave home for limited reasons permitted in law, such as to shop for essentials, to work if you absolutely cannot work from home, to exercise, to seek medical assistance such as getting a Covid test, or to escape domestic abuse.”
  • People who are clinically vulnerable and who were previously told to shield should stay at home and only leave for medical appointments and exercise
  • Primary and secondary schools will close immediately and move to online learning for all pupils except children of key workers and the most vulnerable. This will apply until at least mid-February and GCSE and A-level exams will be cancelled for the second year in a row.
  • University students will not be allowed to return to their institutions and will be expected to study from their current residence. 
  • Non-essential retailers will be shut in the whole of England, together with gyms, hairdressers, sports facilities, pubs and restaurants. Restaurants and other hospitality venues can continue delivery or takeaway services but will no longer be permitted to serve alcohol.

Eagle-eyed readers will have spotted that nearly all of these restrictions already apply in Tier 4 areas, save for the fact that hospitality venues will no longer be allowed to sell takeaway alcohol. True, schools won’t reopen, but schools weren’t open in Tier 4 areas until yesterday – and in many Tier 4 areas not even then.

But if the existing restrictions haven’t been sufficient to contain the virus in Tier 4 areas like London, why does Boris think extending those restrictions to the rest of the country will “squash the sombrero”?

Needless to say, there were several references to the new mutant variant in Boris’s address:

The Prime Minister said that on December 29th “more than 80,000 people tested positive for Covid across the UK”, the number of deaths is up by 20% over the last week “and will sadly rise further”.

“It’s clear that we need to do more together to bring this new variant under control while our vaccines are rolled out,” he said.

“In England we must therefore go into a national lockdown which is tough enough to contain this variant.”

Given that this is the same old solution, we are entitled to ask the same old questions.

First, infections. Any decline in daily cases will likely be credited to the lockdown, but Professor Tim Spector says that his ZOE app is already showing an interesting trend:

https://twitter.com/timspector/status/1346130213382610944

Then there’s the question of whether extending Tier 4 restrictions to the entire country will “protect the NHS”, given that it is supposedly on the point of being overwhelmed in London, which has been in Tier 4 since December 20th.

The Telegraph reports that the Joint Chief Medical Officers have placed the country in COVID-19 alert level 5, meaning that there is a “material risk of health care services being overwhelmed” and the Chief Medical Officers have issued a joint statement:

We are not confident that the NHS can handle a further sustained rise in cases and without further action there is a material risk of the NHS in several areas being overwhelmed over the next 21 days.

Peter Hitchens, however, has a question:

https://twitter.com/ClarkeMicah/status/1346178091429879823

And Dr Clare Craig highlights some key points in a bit of data analysis done by Joel Smalley showing that, in fact, the level of hospital admissions is completely normal for this time of year, as is winter mortality.

https://twitter.com/ClareCraigPath/status/1346163799942901765

Boris set no specific end date for the lockdown, but he said schools wouldn’t return until at least mid-February – by which he means late February, since mid-February is when half-term is. He indicated that it depends on the successful rollout of the vaccines. Though close to being overwhelmed, the NHS hopes to offer a first dose to everyone in the top four priority groups, a total of 13,900,000 people according to vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi. If we manage to vaccinate 1.5 million/week, that will mean the third lockdown will last until mid-March.

Although that’s probably wildly optimistic. Only a few days ago, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van Tam was eager to pour cold water on the notion that a vaccine can set you free, as the MailOnline records.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam was asked at Wednesday’s Downing Street press conference whether people who have had two doses of a vaccine would still have to follow strict rules such as not seeing their families.

The scientist defined the question as whether “it’s OK to behave with wild abandon and go off to the bingo halls and so forth”.

He said a lot was still unknown about whether jabs stopped people passing the disease to others and urged people to be “patient”. 

The official told reporters that the magic phrase was “transmission” and said scientists would know within a couple of months how effective the vaccines are at reducing the chances of “severe illness” from Covid. 

Boris said that people should follow the lockdown rules from now, that they would become law in the early hours of Wednesday, and that parliament would meet remotely later that day. Peter Hitchens says that it is time to write to MPs again and offers some suggested wording.

Stop Press: Several readers have got in touch to point out that the reason for the alarming case data Boris cited in his announcement – 80,000 on December 29th alone – is because the UK is testing more people than any other European country. One reader has calculated that we’re currently testing between six and 14 times more people every day than France, Italy and Germany. Another drew our attention to the number of “cases” in the UK for January 4th as recorded on Worldometers, which dwarfed that of France, Italy and Germany, even though the number of deaths is quite similar:

UK – 58,784 Cases/407 deaths

France – 4,022 Case/378 deaths

Italy – 10,800 Cases/348 deaths

Germany – 8,039 Cases/527 deaths

“Strange,” says the reader. “Over 10 times more cases than France with a similar number of deaths. Germany had over 100 more deaths, but 50,000 fewer cases.”

The explanation? Matt Hancock and his obsession with administering as many PCR tests each day as possible.

Stop Press 2: There is perhaps, as Professor Martin Kulldorff points out, a small crumb of comfort in the return to national lockdown. The fact that there’s another one shows that the sceptics were right: they don’t work.

https://twitter.com/MartinKulldorff/status/1345621393594064896

Notifiable Disease Data and the Case for the Epidemic Phase of COVID-19 being a Spring Phenomenon

A graph showing winter mortality in 2020 compared to the baseline. Bit odd if we’re in the midst of a “second wave” that is supposedly even more deadly than the spring wave and London is its epicentre.

Regular Lockdown Sceptics contributor Dr Clare Craig, and her colleagues Jonathan Engler and Joel Smalley, have taken a close look at the notifiable disease data together with other sources. Examined on a regional basis, they conclude that the autumn surge may be an artefact of enthusiastic reporting in the South West which would indicate that the epidemic phase of COVID-19 concluded with the end of the first surge in Spring. Their contention is that Covid is now endemic and we’re not in the midst of a genuine “surge” in infections and deaths, which is why the winter mortality data is normal.

When a notifiable disease, such as COVID-19, is recorded the location of the patient involved is also recorded. If notifiable disease data is a reliable measure of symptomatic COVID, then there is a striking South West predominance in the Autumn.

The latest data shows continuing decline in notified cases of COVID-19, with only 50 cases notified to Public Health England in the week ending 20th December and 85 cases in the week ending 27th December. Other datasets including, 111 triage data, 999 triage data, ambulance surveillance data, accident and emergency attendance data and excess death data all indicate a Spring epidemic which ended at the end of May or beginning of June, a regionalised Autumn second ripple, and then a return to baseline. This baseline will be a normal level for winter as COVID is now endemic. The only data that does not fit with the other measures is the data dependent on PCR testing.

The numbers of cases that have been notified are a very small percentage of PCR positive results, despite it being a statutory obligation for the treating doctor to notify even a suspicion of a case.

We have previously discussed why notifiable disease reports for COVID-19 may have been lower than expected…

However, closer inspection suggests that the Autumn “2nd peak” of Notifiable Covid may in fact be an artefact which does not represent the true picture nationally, since nearly all the deaths notified during Autumn were in fact from the South West region, with the peak in that area reaching numbers beyond those seen for other regions in Spring.

Very much worth reading in full.

Critical Care Beds Not Overwhelmed

Illustration by Henny Beaumont in the Guardian

A Lockdown Sceptics reader has crunched the numbers on NHS critical care bed occupancy and sent us his analysis.

The Sunday Times published the list of critical care beds by NHS trust region, without too much drilling down. I’ve taken the trouble to do that. It’s based on NHS numbers. I looked at it because the article was provocatively titled “Already Full” without data backing it up.

They base the data on 4,518 beds, which would be Adult Critical Care Beds approximating to the 4,119 shown below so the data is quite robust. The occupancy data includes the likes of Christie, a specialist cancer hospital, so I guess there will be some beds that aren’t available for COVID-19 patients.

The Sunday Times report quotes x beds at y% occupancy. I’ve converted each hospital’s data to show the weighted equivalent beds, and then aggregated them regionally. I then use  the weighted numbers in use with the total beds per region. I think that is a reasonable approach. National weighted utilisation is about 76% using this method

There are obviously some hospitals with critical situations, but no specific region is at 90% or more, with London the highest at 87%. I’ve looked at the categories of utilisation to see how many of the beds available are critically overloaded. I’ve identified 90-100% utilisation beds in amber and red below

Stop Press: The unavailability of critical care beds, then, is not yet a problem for the NHS, but a Spectator reader has a good idea what might be. He left a comment underneath an update from Katy Balls

We have enough critical care beds but not enough staff with 30 – 40% nurses off self isolating with a (probably false) positive PCR test. Instead of the usual couple of days off sick they now have 10 days minimum. Add to that the measures put in place to separate positive from negative patients and you have a self inflicted recipe for disaster. No one will ever now admit their earlier mistakes and will continue to double down on ineffective measures. The whole mass PCR testing and SAGE advice/affair is an economic catastrophe.

We now have recently vaccinated Drs off with a positive test but no symptoms.

Asymptomatic spread has now been shown to be a myth undermining the whole rationale for any lockdown.

You just have to ask why?

Letter From a Reader to His MP About Lockdown 3.0

Readers forward us so many letters that they’ve written to their MPs that we cannot publish all of them. But from time to time we’re sent a real humdinger. Below is one such, sent to Sir Iain Duncan Smith. If you’re thinking of taking up Peter Hitchens’s advice to write to your MP in advance of Wednesday’s vote, there are some good facts here you might be able to use.

Dear Sir Iain,

I hope you are keeping well. I have a couple of questions in respect of the government’s vaccination program/ongoing lockdown strategy (and its tragic impact) that I would be grateful if you could supply answers to.

Preamble: It has been scientifically established that COVID-19 is a low risk pathogen to most (group A), to such an extent that the majority who are infected suffer no symptoms, and that even for those who do suffer symptoms, they are generally mild/akin to flu.

It has also been scientifically established however that for a minority of primarily very elderly or unwell people (group B), COVID-19 presents a high risk pathogen that often proves fatal.

Question one: In the UK, group B consists of c.2.5M people, to which end why should some 30M or more people be vaccinated once the said 2.5M people have been?

Shelving questions of cost, necessity and disruption, it is important that people who don’t need vaccinations don’t have them as it enables their immune systems to develop a natural resistance to the pathogen in question, a resistance that may save them when its next variant inevitably besets them (such immunity preventing pandemics).

Moreover according to the ONS in the week to December 3rd alone 800,000 people in the UK were infected with COVID-19. Mindful of the fact that 70-90% of those infected with Covid show no symptoms, this would indicate that, even allowing for the well who got tested and whose infection was thus detected, some 4M+ of the UK population was infected in a given week, such that, allowing for the fact that the virus has been alive in our society now for an annum, surely it is only a matter of weeks before 30M people have either established a natural immunity to COVID-19 by dint of infection, or were always immune to it by way of past exposure to coronaviruses (last week 341,946 people were recorded by the ONS as having been infected, meaning, a la the same metric, a further 3M+ people were effectively immunised in just that seven day period).

Question two: In light of the fact that all of group B who wish it will be vaccinated by c. January 14th at the going rate, and that those not in this group have little to fear from COVID-19, and that tens of millions of people must already have had COVID-19 (or are immune to it by virtue of exposure to past corona viruses), why is it necessary to perpetuate lockdown measures beyond this date, measures that are both economically, socially and literally murderous? (Please see ref. below re the lockdown death toll).

This is not an idle question. As you are no doubt aware Bristol University, for one, has forecast that Parliament’s response to COVID-19 (as of early November, 2020) will ultimately kill 560,000 UK citizens, a figure more than twice that of the worst case Covid-death scenario of 250,000.

Similarly the ONS predicted earlier in 2020 year that Lockdowns and anti-Covid measures will kill 200,000 UK citizens of all ages in the medium to long term, due to missed medical diagnoses, missed treatments, loss of jobs, loss of tax revenue etcetera.

In line with these dire estimations, the 2020 death statistics (as tallied by the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries) indicate that of the 71,200 excess deaths recorded since the pandemic commenced, 46,721 of these must be attributed to lockdown measures – a rate of over 1000 people a week – which is nearly double the remaining 24,479 people who, according to the Institute, died during the same period due to COVID-19 (NB though 73,512 people died in 2020 with COVID-19, 66% of these would have died of other pathologies in 2020 anyway, as was freely admitted by Professor Neil Fergusson before the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee on March 25th, and thus would not figure in the 71,200 excess death figure for that year).

To conclude, setting aside human rights, civil liberties, Magna Carta and other, now apparently trivial issues (which two million British servicemen laid down their lives for), it can be safely taken that the unjust impositions placed upon the UK public, as well as ruining lives, livelihoods and the economy, are killing a thousand among our number a week at least, and thus must be lifted as a matter of urgency (and certainly not left in force until Easter, like some devilish Lent).

Thank you for your anticipated response.

Scotland Gets in First

from the Scottish Sun

The First Minister, as always, made sure she got her lockdown announcement in first, announcing it six hours before Boris announced his. The Scottish Sun has a summary:

The First Minister yesterday announced that the country would enter another full shut down.

There will be a legal stay-at-home order from 12am – just like last March – with £60 minimum fines for breaches.

She addressed Parliament yesterday and explained that the current situation was “extremely serious” – adding that the new variant of the virus was a “massive blow”.

Ms Sturgeon confirmed that vulnerable children and kids of key workers will still be able to go to school to ensure they are cared for.

She added that getting kids across the country back into classrooms will be a “priority” – and said that there will be a review later this month.

Churches and places of worship will be forced to shut, except for funerals and weddings.

A maximum of 20 people will be able to attend funeral services – with only five guests now allowed at weddings and civil partnerships.

She also confirmed that rules on non-essential businesses will be tightened further. Showrooms in retail outlets will be forced to close, while cosmetic and beauty outlets will not be able to operate.

Leisure venues such as ski centres which had been open until now will also have to shut in a bid to suppress the spread of the virus.

The SNP leader said government ministers would consult with businesses who have been hit by the latest wave of restrictions.

Worth reading in full.

As usual the Scottish lockdown is even more severe than the English one, closing both nurseries and churches which Boris has left open.

Stop Press: Police Scotland has unveiled a new online reporting tool so citizens can grass each other up for breaking lockdown rules without having to get up out of their armchairs.

Stop Press 2: Not wanting to be left out, Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster has announced that her stay-at-home message is to be made law. Apparently, too many people were leaving their homes without a reasonable excuse. The nation is in week two of a six week lockdown. Sky News has the story.

Do Children No Longer Matter?

Crime Scene tape prevents entry to Our Lady’s Catholic Primary School

Edinburghlive reports that Rod Grant, the headmaster of Clifton Hall School, has hit out at the decision to close schools, pointing out the impact it has on children who, he says, seem to be bottom of the Scottish Executive’s priorities. His comments are worth reproducing in full.

In 31 years of teaching, I don’t think I’ve ever felt so despondent and so concerned at the same time. Our world is in the grip of a pandemic and governments across the globe have poured billions of pounds into fighting it and in trying to support the lockdown strategy. Makes me wonder why we couldn’t tackle other issues globally and so ferociously in terms of spend. What about the Climate Emergency? The obesity pandemic? The fact that in 2021 we still have people living on the street; that it takes an international footballer, Marcus Rashford, to shame the British Government into feeding children during school holidays. And what does that also tell us about the current levels of poverty in the UK? What about the 1,500 people that die every day in the UK from the big three: heart disease, strokes and cancer-related illnesses. Why haven’t we taken these issues as seriously as we have a virus which is likely to end up with a mortality rate of well below 1%, and which, according to the Office for National Statistics has an average age of death in the UK of 83. Meanwhile, in Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city, men have a life expectancy of 71.

I’m not a conspiracy theorist; I’m not some radical on the fringes of a fringe. I’m just a teacher and this is what I see:

In the last three months, in my school and in schools like it, I am witnessing mental health issues unlike anything I’ve seen in my career. This is not me trying to be dramatic or to overplay what lockdown actually does to children. I am seeing children being diagnosed with clinical depression, increasing rates of self-harm (even in Scotland, where we already had the highest rate of self-harm in 15 year-old girls anywhere in the world, bar one), suicidal ideation and, something I haven’t seen for at least 20 years, a resurgence of eating disorders. Add to this, those students who are displaying worrying levels of stress and anxiety; the same students that describe online learning as stress inducing. Anyone that has been involved in a Zoom meeting knows how stressful it can be and yet the great solution to our educational recovery is online learning. Well, I’m an educator and I think, at best, it’s a horribly poor substitute for in-school learning.

Right throughout this pandemic, the needs of our children seem to be at the bottom of every Government’s priority list. The cynic in me might suggest that it is because they can’t vote. Fortunately, I’m not cynical. To me, it’s actually just as worrying though to suggest that kids don’t really matter that much if they are not dying.

At the moment, there seems to be no alternative voice; no political party willing to stand up for children’s plight, no media criticism; merely, more nodding in agreement that lockdown is the only solution. Well, just remember in our attempts to suppress a virus and ‘to save the NHS’ that the price we pay is the downward spiral in the mental well-being of our children and a legacy of under-achievement as a result. Last summer, individual children were the lowest priority in Government as seen in the examination results fiasco. As of the 2nd January, there is not one single hospital bed available for any young person suffering from mental health issues anywhere in Scotland. The current waiting time for a mental health appointment with CAMHS in the Lothians is six months. Utterly disgraceful.

Children need to be with their friends. They need to play. They need to develop their social and academic skills. How dare we have created an environment where a 5 year-old can say, “I can’t play with Freddy because he’s not part of my bubble”. It is the stuff of nonsense and it is our children who will end up being this lockdown’s “collateral damage”.

Schools need to be open and they need to open now

Stop Press: Us For Them, the group of mums campaigning to keep schools open, have put out an urgent call to action, asking for like-minded members of the public to write to MPs and others about schools closures. Do support them.

Stop Press 2: John Dickens has totted up the number of U-turns the Government has performed in the past week over schools for Schools Week. He makes it five. Can anyone improve on that?

Catastrophe of Postponing Mocks in Scotland

A Scottish teacher has got in touch to point out that the closure of Scottish schools for the whole of January will make it nigh on impossible for schools to assess their pupils.

It may interest you to know that thanks to Sturgeon’s latest panic lockdown, schools in Scotland may find it almost impossible to provide meaningful assessment data to the SQA. (Scotland’s qualification awarding body.) I am a teacher and the exams officer in a Scottish secondary school, and I am amazed that no one reminded Sturgeon that almost all Scottish secondary schools sit their preliminary (mock) exams in January.

We were expecting these exams to provide the bulk of the evidence which would be used in forming assessment grades. Now that we are to return in February, schools will struggle to have prelim exams before February mid term holidays. Of course, it is also very unfair on the candidates. Most of them were getting to the point where they were ready to sit exams. Now that has to be put on hold for another month as teaching and learning continues remotely. However, remote learning is no substitute for classroom work and exam candidates will inevitably drift somewhat between now and February. I doubt they will be at their best for prelims, whenever they eventually happen.

Of course, the SQA has been forced several times to change its plans. The last change was just a few weeks ago. And here we go again: their plans and key dates will have to be altered again.

So, she may have found yesterday’s decision a difficult one to make, but once again she has decided to inflict misery on young learners in order to pursue her reckless policy of eliminating the virus. Perhaps it mutated because of lockdown? Make it harder to catch and it mutated to make the virus easier to spread?!

Anyway, I’d be grateful if you could keep my name out of this as the Scottish Government is not slow to punish those who speak up against it!

What Will Happen to Democracy if We Stop Educating Our Children?

We’re publishing another original piece today by Dr David McGrogan, an Associate Professor at Northumbria Law School. This time his subject is the long-term consequences of our neglect of education – which is the loss of freedom and, ultimately, the failure of our democracy. Here are the opening three paragraphs.

Of all the tragic, unnecessary and shameful consequences of the 2020 lockdowns, school closures may be the worst. A healthy society prioritises its young; we have sacrificed their life chances to ameliorate the terrors of the old. But the educational consequences of our collective reaction to this virus are more far-reaching than ‘just’ the closure of schools. Indeed, it is my fear that the death of liberal education is happening right in front of our eyes.

This is a strong statement and requires some explanation.

Thoughtful liberals have always recognised that education is the very foundation of liberalism itself. (And here, it is important to make clear that in using the word ‘liberalism’ I am not referring to the soft-left progressivism which is sometimes meant by that term. Rather, I am referring to classical liberalism – the political philosophy that, in a nutshell, considers it foundational that the power of the State ought to be legally constrained by a system of individual rights, such as those to property, freedom of association, freedom of expression, and so on.) This is because, contrary to how its adherents are often caricatured, they have long recognised that there is nothing inevitable about liberalism. Indeed, liberalism rather goes against the grain of innate human characteristics. It sits uncomfortably alongside democracy in particular, because human beings have the tendency to use democracy for illiberal ends. Occasionally, of course, this has manifested itself in outright fascism, as in the first half of the 20th century, but much more frequently those illiberal ends are ostensibly benevolent rather than racist or hateful. The danger is not that mass democracy will usher in dictatorship. It is that it will usher in what Kant called “the worst form of despotism” – an all-encompassing, paternalistic kindness that utterly smothers freedom.

Like Dr McGrogan’s previous piece, this one is worth reading in full.

Stop Press: A reader sent us a response to Dr McGrogan’s last piece, as well as Guy de la Bédoyère reply.

I believe that the two articles by David McGrogan and Guy de la Bedoyere pretty much nail the issues. My only thought would be that fear is usually a big part of these collective hysterias historically. It’s the starting point for the irrationality; whether that be fear of witches in Salem, fear of other internal groups in Weimar Germany or fear of every other European country in the outbreak of WW1.

Most people are still affected by the images they saw on TV in February and March. We are now in a loop where a critical mass of the population has stayed afraid and, as is usual in history, has moralized their fear into certain religious rituals such as lock downs, masks and so forth that give assurance. Of course, nobody admits to be being afraid for themselves either; it is all about protecting others. It always is. Government is then just responding and is in a state of fear too that it will be blamed. Whether any of these things work or not is irrelevant to the debate. They are rituals that are needed as part of the collective assurance seeking. Just like the pointless offensives in World War One. They were part of trying to “do something”. Third Lockdown equals Third Battle of Ypres. Anyone who questions is then a heretic and an evil person. Owen Jones, Piers Morgan and Neil Ferguson are just updated witch doctors.

My belief is that there is very little that can be done now to alter this. It will have to play out. At some point, historians will look back and wonder why we lost our sanity. But it will take time. The General Melchetts of 1914-8 were actually very popular at the time. They even named the Earl Haig Fund after the prime one. It was only in the 1930s that the reaction set in.

What Ever Happened To The Flu?

Verywell/Brianna Gilmartin

One of the curiosities in the winter surge in Covid cases has been the drop in influenza cases, both in the UK and elsewhere. Often this is chalked up to the beneficial effects of masks and social distancing, but one maverick epidemiologist has an alternative theory as Just the News reports:

Where have all the flu cases gone?

Epidemiologist Knut Wittkowski thinks he can answer the riddle.

“Influenza has been renamed COVID-19 in large part,” said the former Head of Biostatistics, Epidemiology and Research Design at Rockefeller University.

“There may be quite a number of influenza cases included in the ‘presumed COVID-19’ category of people who have COVID-19 symptoms (which Influenza symptoms can be mistaken for), but are not tested for SARS RNA,” Wittkowski told Just the News on Thursday. 

Those patients, he argued, “also may have some SARS RNA sitting in their nose while being infected with Influenza, in which case the influenza would be ‘confirmed’ to be COVID-19.”

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention’s weekly influenza surveillance tracker reports that the cumulative positive influenza test rate from late September into the week of December 19th stands at 0.2% as measured by clinical labs. That’s compared to a cumulative 8.7% from a year before.

Other experts in the field offer a more conventional explanation:

Timothy Sly, an Epidemiology Professor at Ryerson University in Toronto, told Just the News that “the reduced incidence of seasonal influenza is almost certainly due to the protection that a large proportion of the population has been using for many months”. Those measures, he said, are “designed to be effective against any airborne respiratory virus”.

Holden Maecker, a Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at Stanford University, echoed that assessment… Speculating on why COVID-19 levels have continued to soar if those measures have been so effective at stopping the flu, Maecker said: “I think it’s because (1) there is less pre-existing immunity to SARS-CoV-2 in the population, whereas most of us have had vaccines and/or previous bouts with flu; and (2) the SARS-CoV-2 virus seems to spread more easily than influenza, including more aerosol transmission and ‘super-spreader’ events.”

Wittkowski, though, is not convinced. He’s been a long-standing critic of COVID-19 mitigation measures and there is data to back him up:

“I think that these viruses are more similar than people want to acknowledge,” says Wittkowski. “People know everybody is wearing masks and distancing, and so people want to come up with things that are good about it.” 

Public health officials have at times struggled to explain why positive COVID-19 tests have surged upward in places, such as California, Pennsylvania and elsewhere, where policies such as social distancing and mask mandates have been in place for months. 

Data indicate that more than nine out of every 10 Americans in most states are wearing masks in public regularly; those numbers have been above 80% since the early fall. Yet average positive COVID-19 tests have multiplied by nearly seven times since the spring peak.

Worth reading in full.

Eternal Lockdown, Wooden Horses and Shiny Things

Jake Woodhouse, a bestselling novelist, has sent us an interesting reflection on the consequences of society’s love for Google, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. The internet has brought us many great things, he says, but it has also brought us this year’s panic-driven, pro-lockdown hysteria.

On February 4th 2004 the technological equivalent of a Trojan Horse was quietly rolled onto the internet. There had been others of course, Google being the obvious example of a new kind of business which provided a service to customers for free, but none which have come to symbolize the new era as much as Facebook. Do we even remember a time before Facebook? Or any of the other companies such as Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube who have come to dominate our society, changed the way we interact, how we do business, how we live our lives?

And could we have predicated how this massive garnering of our attention has turned out? It seems not. At the beginning of 2021 it has now become alarmingly clear that we have given up our freedoms for a few shiny baubles. We have scrolled, clicked and liked our way into a trap so large and so dangerous, that our very liberty is now at stake. And yet, unbelievably, many of us have yet to pull back from the constant stream of notifications on our screens long enough to see it.

The Internet has given us many good things. It has facilitated the dissemination of ideas quicker and more widely than at any other time in history, it has given artists and musicians a platform, and it has allowed so much innovation which has made our day-to-day lives easier. There are bad sides too, terrorism, hate, and the rise of mega-businesses which have been able to quietly crush their small opposition.

All of this we know, but we accept it because times have to change, and when we order something from Amazon and it arrives that very same day part of us can’t suppress the glee that such easy wish fulfilment is possible. How lucky we are.

None of this is news to anyone. But what this last year has shown, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is that there is something far, far darker lurking in this new hyper-connected world. 

Worth reading in full.

All the Lonely People

We’re publishing an original piece today by Jonny Peppiatt, the author of the poem we published yesterday about suicidal ideation. Today’s contribution is about loneliness and the well-established link between loneliness and depression. Here’s an extract:

Before we go any further, I think it would be a good idea to explain what loneliness is, because it isn’t as simple as not having friends or being alone. It is a process within the brain that has been designed by evolution that gives you a feeling as a result of believing you have limited or no connections that provide a sense of mutual aid and protection with other individuals.

Human beings began as a species on the savannahs of Africa but survived as a species because of cooperation and tribal support. If you were an individual who became separated from your tribe, no one would care for you should you fall sick, you would be unable to hunt effectively, and you would be vulnerable to predators; and it is because of this that the brain developed a way to send an urgent signal to reconnect with your tribe in the form of loneliness and a sense of insecurity.

In today’s world, however, the connection that we need is slightly different: mutuality remains a necessity, and aid and protection are still important, although these come as a by-product of simply caring for one another; but avoiding loneliness is also about sharing something that matters to both sides of the connection, which gives rise to an interesting facet of loneliness: it has varying degrees not just in intensity but also in breadth.

Take, for example, three things I care deeply about: writing; cricket; and the queer community. I have people I discuss literature with, and I have people with whom I swap articles and pieces of work with; I have friends I play cricket with, and I have friends waiting around the corner to go to cricket with; but I have no queer community. Somehow, I have ended up with no friends – who would really truly understand – with whom I can discuss the struggles our community faces internally and externally, or the wondrous strides that have been made, or anything else that can be ‘explained’ but cannot be genuinely understood by someone outside of the community, someone who hasn’t lived it, and, because of this, I often feel intensely lonely in this very important aspect of my life.

This one is worth reading in full, particularly the day after a third lockdown has been announced which, don’t forget, will mean a lot of single people being stranded by themselves.

Stop Press: A reader has spotted that the Government is currently carrying out a very timely consultation.

The Government is currently running a consultation on proposals to ban keeping primates as pets, on the grounds that their welfare often suffers from cramped conditions and limited social contact.

In fairness I should note that the bits about primates kept in “tiny cages” are entirely literal, but even so there are some choice lines about “hugely intelligent and socially complex animals” being “deprived of companions of their own kind”.

My favourite is: “‘Primate’ also includes humans but for the purposes of this consultation we are only concerned about non-human primates.”

Round-up

https://twitter.com/talkRADIO/status/1346017394507001856

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Six Today: “Here We Go Again” by John Lennon, “When Will I See You Again” by Three Degrees, “Jailhouse Rock” by the Blues Brothers, “I Want to Break Free” by Queen, “Good Times Gone” by Nickelback and “Let Me Live Again” by Charley Pride.

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, the news that the UK Government stands accused of pursuing a white nationalist agenda. The Guardian has the story:

The head of a race equality think tank has accused the Government of pursuing a divisive “white nationalist” agenda, prioritising the white working class at the expense of ethnic minorities in an attempt to win votes.

In her first interview since being appointed director of the Runnymede Trust, Halima Begum said ministers had failed to respond meaningfully to the “seismic shifts” represented by Black Lives Matters (BLM) protests and the disproportionate effect of COVID-19 on black and minority ethnic (BAME) Britons.

She said that while companies such as Penguin, Goldman Sachs and Apple had been approaching Runnymede to find out what they could do to tackle structural racism, and the public and even civil servants were engaging on the topic, the Government was denying its existence.

“I think the Government’s long-term plan is to work up white nationalism for the next elections,” said Begum. “What we should be saying is that working-class black and white communities have been left behind because they’ve seen industries demolished in the north of this country. We haven’t seen the economies built back, we haven’t seen investment in our education system for years so that our black, white and Asian working-class children will thrive.”

“What I see instead is the Conservatives pushing through [a narrative of] a white working-class that’s been left behind, which by the way is where Trump was at about six years ago.”

Worth reading in full if you have a taste for the absurd.

Over at Spiked, Rakib Ehsan has written a strong rebuttal. Concepts “such as ‘white culture’, ‘white oppression’ and ‘white privilege’, have set back race relations by years”, he says.

Begum’s intervention further confirms how the ‘anti-racism’ industry is being colonised by ideologues intent on keeping non-white people locked into a perpetual state of grievance and victimhood. The reality of the matter is that some of the most severely disadvantaged communities in the UK are predominantly white. These communities can be found in Britain’s long-abandoned post-industrial and coastal towns, which have suffered from long-term economic decline, and political and cultural exclusion, thanks to decades of free-market globalism and liberal cosmopolitanism. To suggest that devoting greater political attention to these neglected communities is a form of white nationalism is exactly the kind of hysterical identitarianism that undermines the broader anti-racist cause.

Begum is right that the BLM movement has caused seismic shifts in British society. But these shifts do not represent progress. A recent poll by Opinium found that a majority of people, 55%, believed that BLM has actually increased racial tensions. This view is also shared by a plurality of ethnic-minority Brits (44%). Labour voters were also notably more likely to agree than disagree with the view that BLM has heightened racial tensions in British society. These survey results show how BLM has undermined social cohesion and sown division and antagonism.

Yes, it is true that the pandemic has exposed very real socioeconomic disparities between the UK’s ethnic groups. But to ignore the myriad factors at play here – from geography and housing to occupation and lifestyle and blame such disparities on ‘structural racism’ is an especially crude and dangerous form of victimhood politics.

He is especially damning about the Begum’s accusation of white nationalism:

To be racially nationalist, as Begum claims the Government is, is to want to preserve the ‘racial purity’ of a nation by facilitating the repatriation of existing racial minorities and halting flows of inward migration of other races. In the British context, white nationalists attempt to root ‘Britishness’ in racial identity, so that one can only be considered British if one is white. This reflects one of the key pillars of white nationalism internationally, namely, the commitment to the idea of the ‘white ethno-state’.

The Government can be accused of many things, but it hardly makes sense to suggest it is committed to forging a white ethno-state. After all, this is an administration with an Indian-origin home secretary, who recently created an immigration route for millions of Hong Kong residents wishing to flee from Chinese state oppression and start a new life in the UK.

Yet despite this, the Guardian insists on carrying an interview claiming the Government is white nationalist. Too often, it seems, politically divisive and socially corrosive narratives surrounding race are presented as fact by an influential clique of culturally liberal activists. Let’s hope their racialist ideas are repudiated with vigour over the course of this year.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: The BBC, in its wisdom, issued a health warning before broadcasting the film of Dad’s Army because of its use of “discriminatory language that some may found offensive”. MailOnline has the story.

Stop Press 2: Following the proposal by Democrats to eliminate gendered language from the House of Representatives, the 117th Congress has opened with a spectacularly woke prayer.

https://twitter.com/GReschenthaler/status/1345866081815187459

“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, 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 created an Android app which displays “I am exempt from wearing a face mask” on your phone. Only 99p, and he’s even said he’ll donate half the money to Lockdown Sceptics, so everyone wins.

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.

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. But the cause has been taken up by PCR Claims. Check out their website here.

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…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=b89W4mijN4c

Take a moment to watch this powerful and somewhat eerie performance staged by a number of Swiss artists against Covid restrictions. In the words of one of the commentators below, it “beats NHS tick tock dances”.

Latest News

The Official Estimate of the Collateral Damage

Friday saw the publication of the Government’s assessment of direct and indirect impacts of COVID-19 on excess mortality and morbidity. The Daily Mail has the details:

More than 100,000 people are likely to die from non-coronavirus causes because of the pandemic, according to an official Government estimate.

By the end of next month the chaos in hospitals and care homes will have led to 46,000 avoidable deaths, Department of Health research has suggested.

Cancellations to routine operations may cause 18,000 excess deaths in the long-term, on top of hundreds more from cancer.

Officials calculated that over the next few years another 40,000 people may die due to the economic impact of lockdown, including rising unemployment and mental health issues.

The Government paper says the overall death toll of the pandemic will be 222,000, with 54% dying from the virus.

Overall, scientists suggest there will be 105,000 additional deaths because of the enormous disruption to non-Covid NHS care, as well as the economic downturn.

The document, dated December 17th and published yesterday by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), was drawn up by civil servants at the Department of Health, the Office for National Statistics and the Home Office.

It laid bare the unintended consequences of lockdown in detail, but stressed that the overall death toll would be far higher without the draconian restrictions.

So far more than 103,000 people in the UK have died after testing positive for COVID-19. 

Without lockdown, another 97,000 would have died from this winter alone, the report said.

The document also suggested the number of virus deaths could reach 122,000 by the end of next month…

The research supports a series of warnings from health charities that non-Covid patients are becoming “collateral damage” of the pandemic.

It said that plummeting non-Covid hospital admissions led to 4,000 excess deaths early in the pandemic, when many people avoided A&E even when they were suffering a heart attack or stroke. 

Continuing disruption to emergency care could lead to a further 10,000 deaths in the second wave, the document said.

The cancellation of operations and outpatient appointments could cause 18,200 deaths.

And the impact on GP services could result in at least 1,400 deaths over five years from missed cancer diagnoses, according to an early estimate which only examined figures up to August.

Excess deaths from non-Covid among adults receiving social care could hit 32,000 by the end of March due to reduced support and a rush to discharge vulnerable patients from hospital.

The report illustrated how even with a successful vaccination programme deaths are likely to remain well above pre-pandemic levels for years.

Of the 222,000 toll, 61,000 deaths were estimated to take place after this March.

The report said that the health impact of the ensuing recession is likely to be much worse than previously feared because “the bounce-back and recovery are likely to be at a slower pace than previously predicted”.

When assessing the Government’s claim that the Covid death toll would be roughly twice as high absent the three lockdowns, it’s worth remembering that Sweden’s deaths per million in 2020 were bang on the EU average in spite of not imposing any lockdowns last year. That suggests the lockdowns imposed in every other EU member state did nothing to reduce Covid mortality.

The report itself goes into more detail.

Under our central scenario there is a loss of approximately 1.3 million QALYs as a consequence of this pandemic induced recession. These health losses are largely accrued in the medium to long-term, with the morbidity affects largely falling in the medium term and the resultant mortality impacts falling in the longer-term. Under the upside scenario, there is an estimated 0.23 million QALY loss in the medium and long-run and under the downside scenario, there is an estimated 2.7 million QALY loss in the medium and long-run from COVID-19

Overall, our analysis suggests that the recession resulting from COVID-19 and restrictions on activities to contain it could have large effects on lives through unemployment, mental health impacts, loss of income and increased financial uncertainty. These impacts are likely to have medium and long-term consequences on population health in terms of increased morbidity and mortality

This analysis also presents an increase in the impact of the recession on medium and long-term health compared to our previous update. This is because more recent economic forecasts suggest the bounce-back and recovery are likely to be at a slower pace than previously predicted, and therefore the health impacts from the economic downturn accumulate over a longer period of time than previously considered.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Psychologist Dr Oliver Robinson is hosting a webinar on Saturday February 13th, 4 – 6pm, examining the the (in)effectiveness of lockdowns in bringing down infection rates and the impact they have on mental health. Tickets are £10 each—£5 if you’re eligible for the concessionary rate – and can be purchased here.

The Catastrophic Impact of School Closures

Bob Moran’s cartoon in the Telegraph on June 25th, 2020

On January 29th, the Education Endowment Foundation published a paper on the effect of school closures and subsequent support strategies on attainment and socio-emotional wellbeing on school pupils in Key Stage 1. The paper focusses on the the impact on the attainment gap in reading and maths and is based on assessments taken by nearly 6,000 Year 2 pupils in 168 different schools in the autumn term. The paper takes a standardised sample of assessments carried out in 2017 as its counterfactual; as its estimate of what progress might have made had pupils been in school as usual.

The findings are concerning, though not surprising:

This study confirms that, following the disruption to schooling in the 2020 spring and summer terms, Year 2 pupils had significantly lower achievement in both reading and maths in autumn 2020 when compared to performance seen in Year 2 in the autumn term of 2017. This represents a COVID-19 gap of around two months’ progress for both reading and maths.

The adverse effect is most pronounced among disadvantaged students. In both reading and in maths, the researchers found that the difference in standardised test scores between pupils on free school meals and pupils not on free school meals represented a gap of seven months of learning. It could not assess how far the gap had grown as a result of lockdown, as the 2017 data did not make this comparison, but by way of context, it says that the 2019 disadvantage gap was approximately six months. It concludes: “It seems that the disadvantage gap is wider than earlier estimates, and will likely be further exacerbated by school closures in early 2021”.

Worth reading in full.

Schools in England and Northern Ireland are set to remain closed until at least March 8th, and in Scotland and Wales until at least the middle of February. It will be difficult, when schools finally do re-open, to repair the damage done. The Prime Minister has penned an open letter to parents, in which he says:

When all this is over we’re going to be putting hundreds of millions of pounds into nationwide catch-up programmes so that nobody gets left behind.

Stop Press: A new piece of research carried out in Norway has found “minimal child-to-child and child-to-adult transmission in primary schools”. In other words, reopening primary schools now would not increase Covid infections.

Stop Press 2: Lockdown TV on Unherd has a special report on the closure of schools, getting perspectives from Katharine Birbalsingh, Headmistress of the Michaela Community School in northwest London, Miriam Cates MP and Alex Gutentag, a public school teacher from Oakland in California.

Stop Press 3: Boris Johnson will have to significantly increase the education budget when the crisis is over, says Isabel Hardman in the Spectator. She interviewed Robert Halfon, the Conservative chair of the Education Select Committee, and the Labour Peer Lord Adonis for the Week in Westminster, and both agree that education needs to be a post-pandemic priority for the Government.

Stop Press 4: Lockdown Sceptics may just have found a point of agreement with Professor Devi Sridhar. Who would have thunk it?

https://twitter.com/devisridhar/status/1355534202154999815

University Clamps Down on Rogue Scrabble Players

An anonymous reader of Lockdown Sceptics writes:

Anyone quaking in their boots with the current round of Covid terror sweeping the nation will be reassured to know that university officialdom is on top of the crisis. My neighbour’s son is at a university in the north of England. The other day he spurned the piffling misdemeanour of attending an all-night rave with several hundred other party people and went for the blatantly lethal and inconsiderate option of playing Scrabble with one other person from his hall and two from the adjacent building. Fortunately, the ever-vigilant university surveillance hit squad operatives who patrol the compound all night pounced on this incipient super-spreader hotspot and broke up the illegal mass-gathering of four Covidiot-insurgents. That they’ve all already had Covid of course counts for nothing as obviously they might have been re-infected. 

The young maniac is now under ‘investigation’ but one of his tutors has advised him to write a letter claiming his mental health is under duress and that he needed to see other people. It’s reassuring to know that young people today are being made fully aware of their responsibilities, and in this case presenting this reckless fool with either being labelled as a vicious, semi-criminal member of the under-class of Covid subversives, or afflicted with mental illness. Either will serve as a warning to others and teach him a lesson he’ll be paying for for the rest of his life, the best way to treat a seditious young person. It’s also useful to know that the universities are finding productive ways to spend their extortionate fees to keep us all safe instead of wasting it on teaching or offering any other services.

Stop Press: For more on the experience of students during the lockdown, listen to the Planet Normal Podcast with the Telegraph’s Allison Pearson and Liam Halligan. In the latest episode they speak to a third-year geophysics student at the University of Durham.

My Mask Battle With the NHS

A reader has written in to share his experiences of getting treatment for his toe over the last few months, an experience dominated by masks.

Last September 29th, I went into a hospital up in the North East to have my big toe joint replaced with a silastic one.

I’ve never worn a mask anywhere and do not possess one. And when I bowled into the ward early in the morning, without a mask, nobody said a word to me. The nurse who was assessing me agreed when I said that mask wearing was a lot of nonsense, but said she would be sacked if she were to say that openly. She burst into tears when I sympathised with her and she said the strain was getting to her. Many of the staff on the (largely empty) ward agreed that masks were pointless, but they dare not dissent. The surgeon turned up wearing a serious-looking surgical mask and his couple of side-kicks were also wearing masks, but cheaper-looking versions. By this time I was in a hospital gown lying on a bed. None of them said a word about my being bare-faced – so to speak. The porter was the only person who handed me a mask and insisted I wear it otherwise he refused to push me down to the operating theatre. I offered to walk but he was having none of it. I held the thing up to my face and he seemed satisfied.

I’ve been back a few times to various hospitals since the operation to see nurses and others and have been shouted at about not wearing a mask and subjected to considerable rudeness and hostility from the staff and other patients who have ganged up on me. On a couple of occasions I’ve covered my mouth with a silk polka dot scarf which seems to satisfy all concerned.

I have tried to obtain a consultation with the surgeon since he did the operation because I am not satisfied that he’s got it right. I was promised a “telephone consultation” with the great man, which turned out to be with his young female registrar who was less than sympathetic and, as she could not see my foot, was of limited help. I told her I wanted the surgeon who did the operation to have a look at it, because the orthotic specialist I’d seen a week earlier (without mask) advised that the surgeon should see the joint because he was concerned the toe did not seem to be “on straight”.

The registrar said the surgeon was not offering “face to face consultations due to the Covid pandemic”. I said I couldn’t understand why not, seeing as he could be masked up and in full anti-virus outfit if he was concerned about catching it. I asked if he was still doing private operations and whether if I paid he would see me. She replied that she knew nothing about his private practice, with the clear implication that she did not want to know either. She made it apparent, by her manner, that she thought I was being a nuisance, but agreed to ask the surgeon if he would arrange a face-to-face consultation.

Yesterday I got a copy of a letter from the registrar to my GP, saying the surgeon “has agreed on this occasion to review [me] in person…”

The letter ended: “On previous visits [he] has declined to wear a face covering but is not medically exempt from doing so. We would kindly ask [him] that he complies with hospital policy and wears a suitable face covering when attending his appointment, otherwise he may not be seen.”

It is not an exaggeration to say that the whole mask-wearing thing causes me “extreme distress”, which in law is enough to exempt me. But the NHS is not concerned about that. They really mean it when they say we have to “protect the NHS”.

YouGov’s Numbers Don’t Add Up

Our next post comes from a Lockdown Sceptics reader who has scrutinised a recent YouGov study about the numbers of people who know someone who died from COVID-19, and found that it doesn’t really make sense.

YouGov have published a study of how many people know someone who has died of COVID-19. They have asked people in 16 different countries.

At first glance the results look coherent – countries with higher death rates are at the top, ones with notoriously low death rates at the bottom. So 19% of Spaniards claim to know someone who has died of COVID-19 while only 2% of Chinese and Singaporeans do.

However, 2% of Chinese is 28,000,000 people. And China claims that only 4,600 people have died of COVID-19. That would mean that every Chinese individual who died of COVID-19 was acquainted with over 6,000 people. Is that a reasonable number? 

Based on those poll numbers, how many acquaintances did COVID-19 victims in other countries have?

Well, here is the answer:

What to make of the results? There seems to be a big disparity between countries.

Are the Chinese the most sociable people on earth? Does a typical Australian or Indonesian have five times more acquaintances that your typical European? Are Mexicans the most personally affected by COVID-19 in the world ?

Or perhaps some countries are hiding deaths? China is always under suspicion of lying about its data. But what about Singapore or Australia? Are those governments hiding deaths too?

The most plausible explanation is something that many Lockdown Sceptics probably already suspect: that YouGov polls, many of which rely on panels of people to fill them out regularly, aren’t very reliable.

You might be tempted to go further.

If you click on the “See Full Results” link you will see some fascinating stats. YouGov will have you believe that 23% of Mexicans claim to have lost a family member. 

But it seems YouGov doesn’t put much faith in the Mexican data so it has left it out altogether from the summary they publish and which is circulating in Twitter.

We can safely conclude that this particular YouGov poll should be taken with a pinch of salt.

Much like other Governments around the world, the Trudeau administration announced last week that travellers coming into Canada will be subject to mandatory quarantines. The National Post has the story.

Travellers coming into Canada will be forced into mandatory hotel quarantines, part of a suite of measures designed to keep Canadians at home as the Government grows increasingly concerned about the risk of new Covid variants that appear to be more transmissible.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the quarantines and several other restrictions on Friday outside Rideau Cottage.

Trudeau said travelers will pay for their hotel stay of up to 72 hours while waiting for a negative Covid test. He estimated the cost at approximately $2,000 as they will have to pay for lodging, food, Covid tests and security ensuring they remain inside.

Anyone testing positive for the virus will have to finish their quarantine in a designated quarantine facility, where the Government will cover the costs.

Travellers testing negative will be able to finish their 14-day quarantine at home, but Trudeau said the Government would step up surveillance of those quarantines. Private security firms have been hired to knock on doors of returning travellers to ensure they’re staying at home, and the Government will be making regular phone calls as well.

Starting Sunday and extending to the end of April, Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing and Air Transat will cancel trips to sun destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean. All international passenger flights arriving in Canada must land at only four airports, in Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary, and Montreal, as part of this stepped up screening.

Trudeau thanked the airlines for taking the steps to help limit the spread of the virus.

“We all agree that now is just not the time to be flying,” he said. “By putting in place these tough measures now, we can look forward to a better time when we can all plan those vacations.”

Though the announcement was made on Friday, the impact of the new law was already kicking in on Thursday evening, as an Edmonton pastor found out when his wife touched down in Calgary. The Western Standard has the details.

An Edmonton pastor may have found out the hard way Thursday night about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s new travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic…

The new rules weren’t even announced yet Thursday night, but it appears officials at YYC Calgary International were ready.

“(My wife Nikki) arrived in Calgary tonight and when she got there she was greeted by a Police Officer and an AHS official,” wrote Pastor Chris Mathis on his Facebook page.

“They rejected her results and told her she needed to go immediately to an isolation facility. She was told if she resisted she would be arrested. She called me, and I immediately asked to talk with the officer. I talked with both a police officer and the AHS official, they reiterated what she had said to me. I asked for the address of where she would be, they said they could not give me the location address as it was confidential.”

“I asked for their names, again they would not give me any information or their names. I pushed, I questioned, I tried to fight but they said they would arrest her if she resisted. They would not give me any information on where they were taking my wife.”

“She was not allowed to get her vehicle from the airport, she was immediately put in a white van surrounded by police escorts and taken to an unknown facility that is under full surveillance and has security at every entrance and exit. You can imagine I am barely keeping myself together wondering what in the world has happened in our country in what seems to be overnight.”

Unlike other Governments, this administration is facing an immediate legal challenge (not directly related to the incident described above) from the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms. The letter (pdf) providing notice to the Transport Minister the Honourable Omar Alghabra states:

Your Government has increasingly shown a disturbing and even aggressive opposition to the constitutional rights and freedoms of Canadians.

It has come to our attention that the Federal Government is now arresting Canadians at the border and transporting them to secret federal locations even when they possess a negative PCR test. The citizens you are holding have not been convicted of an offence, have not had access to a lawyer, and have not appeared before a judge. Your officers are even refusing to inform family members of where their loved ones are being held. This policy aligns with practices of repressive regimes and undemocratic regimes, and is completely unacceptable.

Your arrest and detention of Canadians in this regard is unlawful and unconstitutional and we hereby demand their immediate release, such that they may continue with any necessary isolation protocols in their personal residences.

This is not China or Cuba, or Chile under Pinochet, or Spain under Franco, or theocratic Iran. We are not prepared to permit you and your Government to turn Canada into a repressive replica of countries that have no respect for human rights and civil liberties…

The Order further mandates that, regardless of a negative Covid test result, any person entering Canada must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival…

Quarantining all citizens re-entering Canada, in addition to mandating negative test results, impairs liberty in a manner that is arbitrary, disproportionate, and overbroad, and therefore violates the principles of fundamental justice…

The mandatory quarantining of all Canadians, merely because they exercised their Charter right to leave or enter Canada, is not rationally connected to any legitimate public health objective. It is not rational to impose a 14 day quarantine upon asymptomatic individuals who are able to provide negative test results confirming their lack of infection.

Stop Press: On the subject of travel restrictions, it is worth reading Lord Blunkett’s rather libertarian letter to the editor of the Telegraph

The announcement by Priti Patel relating to quarantine rules and subsequent media interviews with Michael Gove raise several issues.

First, it is clear that the detail and practical arrangements had not been thought through. No plans appear to exist to save the aviation industry or to retain the capacity of our airports for freight and passengers in the future.

Secondly, making it “illegal”, in Ms Patel’s words, for British citizens to leave the country without permission is unprecedented. While measures such as withdrawing British passports have been taken in the past for very specific counter-terrorism or policing reasons, we have never in peacetime forbidden our own people to travel.

Strict requirements on their return may well be justified but historically only autocratic and totalitarian regimes have banned their own citizens from leaving the country.

Lord Blunkett (Lab), London SW1

Stop Press 2: Health Passports continue to gather momentum, though it doesn’t seem likely they’ll help much when it comes to escaping Gulag Britain. Travel Weekly reports that British Airways is to trial a new travel health app called VeriFlY on flights between London and the USA from February 4th. With both countries having closed their border to residents of the other, it is hard to imagine that there will be many people available to give the app a try.

Neil O’Brien Refuses to Debate Prof Carl Heneghan

Speaking on talkRADIO on Friday, Carl Heneghan, the Oxford Professor of Evidence-Based Medicine, said he would be happy to debate Neil O’Brien MP.

https://twitter.com/PaulEmbery/status/1355240429684465666?s=20

An opportunity, surely, for Neil O’Brien to convince people of his case? A challenge to be seized. Alas, Neil O’Brien didn’t see it that way:

https://twitter.com/NeilDotObrien/status/1355442865661497344?s=20

Round-up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Four today: “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” by The Animals, “All Things Must Pass” by George Harrison, “What About the Children” by Yolanda Adams and “Germ Free Adolescents” by X-Ray Spex

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, we draw your attention to Disney’s new animated movie Raya and the Last Dragon which has been criticised for the lack of South Asians among its cast of voice actors. NewsBusters has more.

One would think that looks and race would not matter for voice actors — after all, the viewers never see the actors in animated movies. But just as comedians aren’t allowed to be funny, even voice actors can’t act unless they perfectly resemble their characters.

On Tuesday, January 26th, Disney dropped the second trailer for Raya and the Last Dragon and the movie is once again generating a lot of controversy. While some fans are excited to see a movie portraying South East Asian culture, others criticise Disney’s inattention to which region of Asia its actors are from. 

Based on South East Asian traditions, Disney says the fantastical story is set “in the fantasy world of Kumandra” which is endangered by monsters. Although 500 years ago dragons had protected the humans, only one remains alive and it is up to young Raya to “track down the last dragon in order to finally stop the [monsters] for good”.

Besides the film’s starring Vietnamese actress, Kelly Marie Tran (known for her role as Rose in Star Wars), nearly all of the cast are East Asian (Chinese and Korean). Although Raya and the Last Dragon was written by South East Asian-American screenwriters, Adel Lim (Malaysian) and Qui Nguyen (Vietnamese) and its lead actress is of South East Asian descent, Disney’s Representation effort just wasn’t enough for some people. 

“I am actually very conflicted about the new Raya and the Last Dragon casting. I love all those cast members,” said one Twitter user. “But basically everyone except KMT is East Asian. Imagine how big it would be if they actually casted Southeast Asian actors. SE Asian actors are sorely lacking in Hollywood.”

Another user, Laura Siriku, commented, “Listen, I’m all for Asians playing other Asian ethnicities, but the roles of South East Asians have been little to none,” she said. “With #RayaAndTheLastDragon celebrating South East Asia, I feel like it’d be a huge moment to have SEA being able to play their own heritage.” 

Several others have possibly more legitimately complained that the world of Kumandra and Raya’s story are based on a collection of South East Asian cultures. Unlike nearly every other Disney Princess, Raya is not based on the unique culture of a single country but rather a region with vast cultural diversity…

The movie will premiere on Disney Plus on March 5th. Luckily for Disney, the movie has simultaneously generated plenty of excitement from fans who not only want to appreciate other cultures on the screen, but shockingly just want to enjoy a great movie.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Responding to Kehinde Andrews’ new book, The New Age of Empire, the British-Nigerian writer Ralph Leonard has penned an elegant defence of the West and the Enlightenment.

Stop Press 2: Writing for the Spectator, Jake Wallis Simons, Deputy Editor of the Jewish Chronicle, says that that Black Lives Matter should be looking to Martin Luther King for inspiration, rather than Malcolm X.

Stop Press 3: John McWhorter, a contributing writer at the Atlantic, has reminded schools and colleges that campuses are not, in fact, bastions of social injustice. They must resist he says “destructive anti-racist demands”.

“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: Everyone must wear a mask now, even the Long Man of Wilmington. Sky News reports that the 72 metre tall chalk figure had a mask added to his face by some local pranksters. Luckily for the historic, South Downs landmark, this was deemed an act of vandalism, and the mask was swiftly removed. As for the rest of us…

https://twitter.com/SkyNews/status/1355231940325089282

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.

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 underpins the SARS-CoV-2 PCR test protocol. 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 have also submitted a retraction request.

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…

A 16 year-old girl’s impression of the COVID-19 response in Alberta, Canada, sent in by a Lockdown Sceptics‘ Reader