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Matt Hancock’s Bad Day at the Office

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uS4KruI6Nr8

The Health Secretary didn’t have a good day yesterday.

It began with an interview on Good Morning Britain in which Piers Morgan attacked him unrelentingly for refusing to appear on the programme for the previous 201 days.

“Do you think it’s right and proper than in the biggest health crisis this country has faced for a hundred years, that you as Health Secretary and the entire Cabinet and the prime Minister have boycotted a big morning breakfast television programme and our viewers for six months?” asked Piers. “Did you support the boycott? Did you agree with it?”

Gurning and waffling didn’t really cut it. After cataloging all the health failures on Hancock’s watch, Piers told him he should resign.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fa5ruw4nOLg

That was followed directly afterwards by an appearance on Julia Hartley Brewer’s talkRADIO show in which she pressed him on whether the Government had “ruled out” a mandatory mass vaccination programme.

“Honestly, I’ve learnt not to rule things out during this pandemic because you have to watch what happens and you have to make judgements accordingly,” he said.

That surely wasn’t part of the script? It generated headlines afterwards, such as this one in the Telegraph: “Matt Hancock refuses to rule out making coronavirus vaccine mandatory.

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

He then had to step in for Boris at the Downing Street briefing, where he made a series of implausible claims, including that “the virus remains a potent threat… not just to the oldest and the most vulnerable but to anyone of any age and of any background…”

Eh? As I pointed out yesterday, 88% of those who’ve died so far in Scotland are aged 70 or over and only 8% of the people who’ve succumbed to the virus have had no underlying health condition. According to John Ioannidis, Professor of Medicine at Stanford, the infection fatality rate for healthy under-70s is 0.05% – hardly a “potent threat”.

Worse was Hancock’s admission that it was “too early to know” whether the second lockdown would end on December 2nd, or whether some areas might be plunged into Tier 4 restrictions on December 3rd, prompting an angry exchange afterwards between the Prime Minister and member of the Covid Recovery Group. The Telegraph has the details.

Conservative MPs have blasted the “grim” and “terrible” suggestion that lower tiers could be “strengthened” after national lockdown is lifted, with Boris Johnson on another collision course with his backbenchers.

Tories had hoped for a general loosening of restrictions ahead of Christmas, with those in the lower tiers particularly aggrieved at the blanket measures.

Hancock claimed daily cases were still rising, comparing the daily average last week with the daily average the week before. But as Carl Heneghan pointed out on Twitter, the latest ONS infection survey suggests otherwise.

https://twitter.com/carlheneghan/status/1328387370597687299?s=20

Mass Testing – an Unevaluated, Underdesigned, and Costly Mess

Mike Gill, a former regional director of Public Health England, and Muir Gray, a visiting professor at the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences at Oxford, didn’t pull their punches in an editorial for the BMJ about the Government’s £100 billion mass testing programme.

With incidence across Liverpool already falling, attributing and quantifying any additional effect from the programme may prove complex. Instead, similar programmes are being rolled out across the country to universities and local authorities even before this pilot is complete.

The queues of people seeking tests in Liverpool suggest the initial acceptability of this pilot is high, at least to some. Its ethical basis, however, looks shaky. The council claims, wrongly, that the test detects infectiousness and is accurate. In fact, if used alone it will lead to many incorrect results with potentially substantial consequences. The context for gaining consent has been tarnished by the enthusiasm of some local officials and politicians. In the case of schools, the programme has been culpably rushed: parents have had to respond unreasonably promptly to a request to opt out if they do not want their child screened.

There is no protocol for this pilot in the public domain, let alone systems specification or ethical approval. The public has had no chance to contribute, as required by the UK standards for public involvement in research.

Spending the equivalent of 77% of the NHS annual revenue budget on an unevaluated underdesigned national programme leading to a regressive, insufficiently supported intervention – in many cases for the wrong people – cannot be defended. The experience of the National Screening Committee and National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) tells us that allowing testing programmes to drift into use without the right system in place leads to a mess, and the more resources invested the bigger the mess. This system should be designed with up to 10 clear objectives to deliver the aim of reducing the impact of covid—for example, to identify cases more quickly or to mitigate the effects of deprivation on risk of infection and poor outcomes. Progress in each objective (or lack of it) should be measured against explicit criteria. Screening programmes based on experience and on the literature relating to complex adaptive systems offer a model for rapid progress.

At a minimum, there should be an immediate pause, until the fundamental building blocks of this mass testing programme have been externally and independently scrutinised by the National Screening Committee and NIHR. In the meantime, nobody’s freedom or behaviour should be made contingent on having had a novel rapid test.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: A panel of scientists form universities in Newcastle, Birmingham, Warwick and Bristol sounded the alarm yesterday about the dangers of mass testing. The Mail has more.

They described it as the “most unethical use of public funds for screening” they’ve ever seen and claimed it had the potential to “actually do a lot of harm”.

The panel said it was telling that population screening for COVID-19 has not been endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO) or the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).

At a virtual press conference today, Professor Allyson Pollock, clinical professor of public health at the University of Newcastle, said: “The evidence for screening is not there.

“The evidence around the tests is poor and weak at the moment, and needs to be improved.

“We’re arguing the moonshot programme really should be paused, until the cost effectiveness and the value for money of any of these programmes is well established.”

Also worth reading in full.

Is the Pandemic Machine Similar to the German War Machine in 1914?

What follows is a guest post by longtime contributor Guy de la Bédoyère.

Reading the interview with the epidemiologist Tom Jefferson in Der Spiegel flagged up in Lockdown Sceptics yesterday really made me think. When he said:

The WHO and public health officials, virologists and the pharmaceutical companies. They’ve built this machine around the impending pandemic. And there’s a lot of money involved, and influence, and careers, and entire institutions! And all it took was one of these influenza viruses to mutate to start the machine grinding.


I was instantly reminded of Germany’s Schlieffen Plan. Human beings always want to plan for the future, offset future disasters, protect the population and so on – and it’s usually for the best possible reasons. The Schlieffen Plan had a totally different purpose in mind. It was supposed to protect Germany in a war with France.

In 1914 the Plan was all set up and ready to go and had been since Count Alfred von Schlieffen had dreamed it up in 1906. Except that the circumstances in 1914 weren’t what Schlieffen had quite imagined. A Serb had killed the Archduke Franz-Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austro-Hungary, in Sarajevo. The Austro-Hungarians were outraged and threatened war. Russia said it would support the Serbs. The Germans said they would support the Austro-Hungarians. It looked like Germany was about to go to war with Russia – but France was Russia’s ally and that meant – wait for it – that Germany might have to go to war with France.

And that’s when the Schlieffen Plan came off the shelf and how a conflict that started in Sarajevo ended with a war between Germany and France, leading to four years of unbelievable brutality and bloodshed, millions killed and a fallout that echoes down to today via the Second World War. Let’s not forget that huge amounts of money were involved – every one of the belligerents believed they could get the defeated enemies to pick up the bill. They all got that wrong: the world has been paying for the Great War ever since.

No, that’s not a bit like dealing with a pandemic. Of course it isn’t. But it’s a real warning from history about overplanning in advance of circumstances that will always be unrecognizably different from what actually happens. Then put in charge the sort of people who can only operate to a rule book and the scene is set for believing that just following the bullet points means the problem will be sorted. Instead, the pit just gets dug deeper and deeper, positions get entrenched, money gets spent. But perhaps that’s just the way human beings are. I’m not suggesting for a moment the intentions aren’t sincere.

I have a creeping feeling that however things look right now, when our descendants look back on this time in the decades to come, there’s a more than sporting chance that just like us looking back at 1914 they’ll be saying, “What on earth were they thinking?”

Just imagine how different everything would have been if the powers that were had got together at Xmas 1914 and said: “This is absurd, let’s stop now and rethink it all – there’s no point in destroying the world.” But they didn’t. They just ploughed on to save face.

Government Admits It’s Been Miscounting Cases – Again

“Dido? Is that you? Matt here. NHS Test and Trace has cocked up again. But don’t worry. We’ll get PHE to announce it.”

Oh dear. Public Health England announced yesterday that NHS Test and Trace has been wrongly identifying the location of people testing positive, using their address on the NHS database rather than the location where they’ve been tested. Until recently, there wasn’t much discrepancy – only 4% of people were living in a different area to the place they got tested, according to PHE. But between September 1st and October 12th, this increased to 12% of cases, driven mostly by younger people aged 17 to 21 relocating from their homes to universities.

The upshot is that the number of positive cases per 100,000 has been inflated in London, while the cases per 100,000 in university towns has been understated.

The Evening Standard identified this problem over a month ago, running a story on October 12th pointing out that the number of cases in Richmond had jumped by an implausibly large amount at exactly the same time that term started at universities.

The coronavirus rate jumped in the borough to 130.8 new cases per 100,000 population in the week to October 8th (259 cases), compared with 78.8 (156 cases) for the previous seven days, according to an analysis.

Borough chiefs believe a significant part of the rise in recent weeks, possibly more than 16%, may be due to students from Richmond at universities in other cities around the country, including Leeds, Exeter, Manchester and Durham, being included in its figures.

One obvious question is whether London needed to move from Tier 1 to Tier 2 towards the end of October, given that the number of positive cases in London was being inflated by this glitch. At the time, Sadiq Khan told the London Assembly that the decision was based on “expert public health and scientific advice”. But was the Mayor aware that the students who were pushing the numbers up were located in cities like Leeds, Exeter, Manchester and Durham rather than the capital? I doubt it.

According to a well-informed Twitter thread by Dr Duncan Robertson, a Fellow of St Catherine’s College, Oxford who specialises in COVID-19 modelling and analysis, this was a cock-up by the commercial company NHS Test and Trace hired to run the programme and can’t really be laid at the door of PHE. “It is unfortunate that PHE are making this statement as opposed to NHS Test and Trace or DHSC (who is responsible), as the error appears to have been with the methodology employed by commercial DHSC Test and Trace,” he Tweeted. Presumably, Hancock and co thought it would be prudent for PHE to take the blame because the agency is due for the chop shortly.

https://twitter.com/Dr_D_Robertson/status/1328420814073565185?s=20

The Law Commission Wants New Blasphemy Law by the Back Door

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vvdBlkdfX4Y

Andrew Tettenborn, Professor of Law at Swansea University, appeared on Julia Hartley Brewer’s talkRADIO show yesterday morning to raise the alarm about the Law Commission’s new hate crime proposals. According to Andrew – a member of the Free Speech Union’s Legal Advisory Council – if these proposals become law an author of a novel like The Satanic Verses could be jailed for seven years.

You can read the Free Speech Union’s briefing document about these dreadful, anti-free speech proposals here.

Why is the Medicines Regulator Seeking an AI Software Tool to Process Vaccine Side Effects?

Alicia Vikander as Ava, an intelligent machine, in Ex Machina

Several readers have alerted me to a recent invitation to tender by the medicines regulator that seems to suggest the Government is expecting a huge number of negative reactions to the Covid vaccines. I asked the Lockdown Sceptics test and trace correspondent – who tracked the failure of the NHSX Covid-tracking app for us – what this was all about and whether it was cause for concern.

There has been some excitement over an announcement spotted in the Official Journal of the EU by the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA):

MHRA urgently seeks an Artificial Intelligence (AI) software tool to process the expected high volume of Covid-19 vaccine Adverse Drug Reaction (ADRs) and ensure that no details from the ADRs’ reaction text are missed.

Adverse Drug Reaction? Expected high volumes? Is this playing into the hands of the vaccine conspiracy theorists? Not so fast. The actual story is a familiar one in this pandemic response: failure of Government planning, wasted money and a last minute dash to build an IT system, all summarised rather nicely in the announcement itself:

Award of a contract without prior publication of a call for competition in the Official Journal … Reasons of extreme urgency — the MHRA recognises that its planned procurement process for the SafetyConnect programme, including the AI tool, would not have concluded by vaccine launch.

The collection and analysis of Adverse Drug Reactions (ADRs) is a standard part of all drug development. Pharma companies employ hundreds of experts in “Patient Safety” teams and numerous IT systems and processes to handle it, and it is partly why drug development takes so long and costs so much. But if that is done by the drug companies then why does the UK regulator, MHRA, need its own ADR processing system?

The scrutiny of drugs does not stop when they get a license. Following the thalidomide tragedy in the 1960s, the WHO set-up adverse event [AE] vigilance systems in countries like the UK. Here it is called the Yellow Card scheme. You may never have heard of it, but there have been over 700,000 ADRs submitted since it was established. With the number of adverse events increasing dramatically each year, pharma companies and regulators are reaching the limits of what people can do accurately and efficiently. Heaping the nation’s largest ever mass vaccination campaign onto the regulator’s human based systems was not going to work. A problem for AI to solve? Perhaps Matt Hancock’s £250m National AI Lab, announced in August 2019, could help? Indeed MHRA were onto a similar idea as early as Oct 2018 when their board said:

MHRA has been encouraged to put forward bids to several government programmes for funding/ external resources to explore the utility of artificial intelligence (AI) to deliver enhanced vigilance capability.

Nearly two years later and how has the time and money been spent? Not all that productively it seems as on Sept 14th EU procurement rules had to be bypassed as a £1.5 million contract was urgently awarded to GenPact (UK) to process an estimated 25,000 to 50,000 ADR reports over a six- to 12-month period. Even then, the MHRA said the system would not be ready for the vaccine launch date.

Someone should tell Kate Bingham, chair of the UK’s vaccine task force, who said the use of AI was “just what the MHRA should be doing”, adding that the UK is “incredibly well set up to do this given we all have NHS records which are electronic and connected”. Err, no we don’t. Connecting all patient records in the NHS was the NPfIT programme, which cost £12.7 billion before being cancelled and described by a House of Commons enquiry as “one of the worst and most expensive contracting fiascos ever”.

Still, I am sure it will be different this time.

Why is Sweden Imposing Restrictions When ICU Admissions are Falling?

What follows is a guest post by Will Jones.

Stefan Löfven, the Swedish Prime Minister, has announced he will pass a law to ban public gatherings of eight people or more.

“Do your duty,” he said. “Do not go to the gym, do not go to the library, do not have parties. Do not come up with excuses that would make your activity OK. It is your and my choices – every single day, every single hour, every single moment – that will now determine how we manage this.”

This shift in strategy to a nationally enforced “Rule of 8” does not appear to have the backing of state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, who has said he wants to use the same no-lockdown approach for the “second wave” as he did for the first.

Perhaps the PM is listening instead to Fredrik Elgh, Professor of Virology at Umeå University, who recently claimed Sweden is two weeks away from surpassing the first wave’s peak hospitalisations. Has he not noticed that ICU admissions are currently in decline? And does he not recall that the health service coped fine in the spring?

Prof Elgh also noted that lockdowns appear to have worked in Belgium and the Czech Republic. But it’s cherry-picking data to look just at two countries where a decline happened to coincide with restrictions.

What about the fact that Sweden’s first wave declined with no lockdown, while in the UK the R rate dropped below 1 before lockdown both in the spring and in the autumn?

Why is the country introducing lockdown measures now, when there is nothing to indicate an autumn out of the ordinary? It may be because the country had hoped to have a milder autumn surge than they are experiencing. But that disappointment doesn’t change the basic parameters, which is that Covid has not been responsible for more than a medium to severe flu season anywhere, whatever restrictions have been applied. The graph below illustrates this point perfectly, showing Sweden’s 2019-2020 flu season death toll scarcely higher than earlier years. Not locking down does not result in a death toll much beyond the normal range, and most of those who die are already past the average life expectancy.

All-cause deaths in Sweden in October–May (not adjusted for population)

Lockdown zealots have recently taken to arguing that Sweden is so different to the UK and the rest of Europe that its example is of no practical relevance. They claim, for example, that Sweden has lower population density than the UK. But they fail to mention that most of it is empty space and that Sweden is in fact a more urbanised country than the UK (87.7% vs 83.4%). They also omit to note Stockholm has a similar population density to London.

They argue Sweden has more single occupancy households (39% vs 28%), but fail to mention that that translates to 17.8% and 15% of the population respectively so isn’t really significant.

They argue Swedes are a more naturally compliant people who studiously follow all the guidance so don’t need coercive rules. However, Stockholm in April was notorious for young people crowding into nightclubs and cafes while the rest of the world locked down. Karolinska Institute immunologist Marcus Buggert was quoted in the BMJ in September saying social distancing in Sweden was “always poorly followed, and it’s only become worse”. Conversely, Brits have been surprisingly conformist (and fearful of the virus), especially in the first lockdown.

In terms of the unfavourable comparison of Sweden to the death rates of its neighbours, that appears to be largely a result of a run of mild flu seasons in the country, leaving more “dry tinder” (older people vulnerable to respiratory infections), which is why 70% of Covid deaths in Sweden occurred in nursing homes.

What a shame that the chin-wobbling Swedish politicians seem at this late stage to have developed a hunger for locking down. Whatever restrictions they now impose though, Sweden remains an important demonstration of what happens when a country refuses to lock down. Sweden may not want to heed the lessons of its own example, but others can.

Round-Up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Just one today: “Highway to Hell” by AC/DC.

Love in the Time of Covid

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

Sharing stories: Some of you have asked how to link to particular stories on Lockdown Sceptics. The answer used to be to first click on “Latest News”, then click on the links that came up beside the headline of each story. But we’ve changed that so the link now comes up beside the headline whether you’ve clicked on “Latest News” or you’re just on the Lockdown Sceptics home page. Please do share the stories with your friends and on social media.

Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, I’m flagging up Christiane Amanpour’s bizarre comparison of Donald Trump’s four-year term with Kristallnacht, the infamous night in 1938 in which the Nazi Party and its supporters ransacked Jewish schools and hospitals, damaged or destroyed over 7,000 Jewish-owned businesses, arrested 30,000 Jewish men and murdered at least 90.

“This week, 82 years ago, Kristallnacht happened,” Amanpour said at the top of her CNN show last Thursday.

It was the Nazis’ warning shot across the bow of our human civilization that led to genocide against a whole identity. And, in that tower of burning books, it led to an attack on fact, knowledge, history and truth.

After four years of a modern-day assault on those same values by Donald Trump, the Biden/Harris team pledges a return to norms, including the truth. And, every day, Joe Biden makes presidential announcements about good governance and the health and security of the American people, while the great brooding figure of his defeated opponent rages, conducting purges of perceived enemies and preventing a transition.

CNN hasn’t exactly been pro-Trump for the last four years, but even by the network’s partisan standards this was over-the-top. To compare Trump’s Presidency to Kristallnacht is to wildly exaggerate his sins – the ultimate example of Trump Derangement Syndrome – and, at the same time, minimise the crimes committed by the Nazis on that terrible night.

Not surprisingly, top Israeli officials have demanded an apology, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Diaspora Affairs Minister Omer Yankelevitch said on Sunday that the US news network “should be a partner in the global effort to fight antisemitism and not fuel the fire”.

“Using the memory of the Holocaust for cheap headlines or a political agenda is concerning and distorts the historical and moral truth,” Yankelevitch said.

Stop Press: Liz Truss has been accused of “gross negligence” by a Lib Dem MP after appointing David Goodhart, a member of the Free Speech Union’s Advisory Council, to the Equality and Human Rights Commission. His sin? To describe the claim that Britain is systemically racist as “statistically naive”.

Stop Press 2: There’s a good piece in the Times on the difficulties various companies have got themselves into by trying to appear woke.

Stop Press 3: Suzanne Moore has left the Guardian, presumably forced out as a result of dissenting from woke orthodoxy. Watch me sticking up for her in a ding-dong with Owen Jones on Sky News a few months ago.

https://twitter.com/SpeechUnion/status/1281978610723717121?s=20

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

We’ve created a one-stop shop down here for people who want to buy (or make) a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and it has the advantage of not explicitly claiming you have a disability. But if you have no qualms about that (or you are disabled), you can buy a lanyard from Amazon saying you do have a disability/medical exemption here (takes a while to arrive). The Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. You can get a “Hidden Disability” tag from ebay here and an “exempt” card with lanyard for just £1.99 from Etsy here. And, finally, if you feel obliged to wear a mask but want to signal your disapproval of having to do so, you can get a “sexy world” mask with the Swedish flag on it here.

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

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

If you’re a shop owner and you want to let your customers know you want 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.

Mask Censorship: The Swiss Doctor has translated the article in a Danish newspaper about the suppressed Danish mask study. Largest RCT on the effectiveness of masks ever carried out. Rejected by three top scientific journals so far.

Stop Press: Joe Biden, in his first economic address since the election, said he supported a national mask mandate to help curb the rise of the virus.

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 last month 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 my 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 650,000 signatures.

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

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

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

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

Judicial Reviews Against the Government

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

First, there’s the Simon Dolan case. You can see all the latest updates and contribute to that cause here.

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

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

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

The Night Time Industries Association has instructed lawyers to JR any further restrictions on restaurants, pubs and bars and is challenging the 10pm curfew. The hearing date is set for December 3rd, the day after we come out of lockdown.

Christian Concern and over 100 church leaders are JR-ing the Government over its insistence on closing churches during the lockdowns. Read about it here.

And last but not least there’s the Free Speech Union‘s challenge to Ofcom over its ‘coronavirus guidance’. You can read about that and make a donation here.

Samaritans

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

Quotation Corner

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

Mark Twain

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

Charles Mackay

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

Benjamin Franklin

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

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

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

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

Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury

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

Sir Winston Churchill

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

Richard Feynman

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

C.S. Lewis

The welfare of humanity is always the alibi of tyrants.

Albert Camus

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

Carl Sagan

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

George Orwell

We’re Hiring

Lockdown Sceptics is looking to hire someone to help us write the daily update. This will involve producing a daily update yourself two or three times a week – so a page exactly like this one – under your own byline. The ideal candidate will have some journalistic background, be able to work quickly under pressure and know their way around WordPress. We can pay you £75 for each update. If you’re interested, email us here and put “Job Application” in the subject line.

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…

In the latest episode of London Calling, my weekly podcast with James Delingpole, we discuss how Boris became Prince Harry to Princess Nut Nuts, condemn ⁦the Labour Party for demanding that anti-vaxxers be even more censored on social media than they already are and review The Queen’s Gambit, which James thought was unrealistic because, according to him, you need an “autistic” male brain to become a chess champion.

You can listen to the podcast here and subscribe on iTunes here.

Latest News

Did the Virus Escape From the Wuhan Institute of Virology?

The Wuhan Institute of Virology in China’s central Hubei province (AFP)

In one of his last acts as President of the United States, Donald Trump has directed the US Department of State to issue a fact sheet about the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the origin of the pandemic. Suffice to say it’s a marmalade-dropper.

For more than a year, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has systematically prevented a transparent and thorough investigation of the COVID-19 pandemic’s origin, choosing instead to devote enormous resources to deceit and disinformation. Nearly two million people have died. Their families deserve to know the truth. Only through transparency can we learn what caused this pandemic and how to prevent the next one.

The U.S. Government does not know exactly where, when, or how the COVID-19 virus, known as SARS-CoV-2, was transmitted initially to humans. We have not determined whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan, China.

The virus could have emerged naturally from human contact with infected animals, spreading in a pattern consistent with a natural epidemic. Alternatively, a laboratory accident could resemble a natural outbreak if the initial exposure included only a few individuals and was compounded by asymptomatic infection. Scientists in China have researched animal-derived coronaviruses under conditions that increased the risk for accidental and potentially unwitting exposure.

The CCP’s deadly obsession with secrecy and control comes at the expense of public health in China and around the world. The previously undisclosed information in this fact sheet, combined with open-source reporting, highlights three elements about COVID-19’s origin that deserve greater scrutiny:

1. Illnesses inside the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV):

The U.S. Government has reason to believe that several researchers inside the WIV became sick in autumn 2019, before the first identified case of the outbreak, with symptoms consistent with both COVID-19 and common seasonal illnesses. This raises questions about the credibility of WIV Senior Researcher Shi Zhengli’s public claim that there was “zero infection” among the WIV’s staff and students of SARS-CoV-2 or SARS-related viruses.

Accidental infections in labs have caused several previous virus outbreaks in China and elsewhere, including a 2004 SARS outbreak in Beijing that infected nine people, killing one.

The CCP has prevented independent journalists, investigators, and global health authorities from interviewing researchers at the WIV, including those who were ill in the fall of 2019. Any credible inquiry into the origin of the virus must include interviews with these researchers and a full accounting of their previously unreported illness.

2. Research at the WIV:

Starting in at least 2016, and with no indication of a stop prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, WIV researchers conducted experiments involving RaTG13, the bat coronavirus identified by the WIV in January 2020 as its closest sample to SARS-CoV-2 (96.2% similar). The WIV became a focal point for international coronavirus research after the 2003 SARS outbreak and has since studied animals including mice, bats, and pangolins.

The WIV has a published record of conducting “gain-of-function” research to engineer chimeric viruses. But the WIV has not been transparent or consistent about its record of studying viruses most similar to the COVID-19 virus, including “RaTG13,” which it sampled from a cave in Yunnan Province in 2013 after several miners died of SARS-like illness.

WHO investigators must have access to the records of the WIV’s work on bat and other coronaviruses before the COVID-19 outbreak. As part of a thorough inquiry, they must have a full accounting of why the WIV altered and then removed online records of its work with RaTG13 and other viruses.

3. Secret military activity at the WIV:

Secrecy and non-disclosure are standard practice for Beijing. For many years the United States has publicly raised concerns about China’s past biological weapons work, which Beijing has neither documented nor demonstrably eliminated, despite its clear obligations under the Biological Weapons Convention.

Despite the WIV presenting itself as a civilian institution, the United States has determined that the WIV has collaborated on publications and secret projects with China’s military. The WIV has engaged in classified research, including laboratory animal experiments, on behalf of the Chinese military since at least 2017.

The United States and other donors who funded or collaborated on civilian research at the WIV have a right and obligation to determine whether any of our research funding was diverted to secret Chinese military projects at the WIV.

Today’s revelations just scratch the surface of what is still hidden about COVID-19’s origin in China. Any credible investigation into the origin of COVID-19 demands complete, transparent access to the research labs in Wuhan, including their facilities, samples, personnel, and records.

As the world continues to battle this pandemic, and as WHO investigators begin their work, after more than a year of delays, the virus’s origin remains uncertain. The United States will continue to do everything it can to support a credible and thorough investigation, including by continuing to demand transparency on the part of Chinese authorities.

Stop Press: A World Health Organisation team is currently in China to investigate the origin of SARS-CoV-2. Matt Ridley co-authored a piece with Alina Chan about this in the Wall Street Journal on Jan 15th pointing out that the investigation is tainted from the outset because the WHO will not be looking into the possibility that the coronavirus originated in a lab.

Stop Press 2: China is currently seeing a new surge in cases and is reported to have built a new hospital in Nangong in Hebei province in just five days.

Stop Press 3: If you want to look more closely into the theory that the pandemic began with a leak from the WIV – still regarded as a “conspiracy theory” by Facebook’s “independent fact checkers” – we recommend this piece by Nicholson Baker in New York magazine.

Lockdown? What Lockdown?

MailOnline reports that Health Secretary Matt Hancock was seen out and about yesterday, seemingly enjoying life:

Matt Hancock was seen “covered in mud” while carrying a rugby ball through a London park this afternoon the day after Boris Johnson pleaded with the nation to “stay at home this weekend”. 

The Prime Minister yesterday released a video calling on the public to ‘think twice’ before leaving the house as he moved to cool rising optimism amid a drop in daily infections and the vaccination of more than 3.5 million people.

He urged everyone to behave as if they have coronavirus, warning that asymptomatic “silent spreaders” are unwittingly fuelling the crisis and the next person infected “could be you”.

But his sobering clarion call did little to put off crowds who headed to busy parks – including the Health Secretary who was filmed by a passerby casually walking through Queen’s Park in North London while clutching a rugby ball.

In the clip, Mr Hancock, who is not wearing a mask, smiles as a member of the public who remarks at how “muddy” he is.  

The witness told MailOnline: “I was there at about 3.30 this afternoon… Suddenly I saw Matt Hancock, he was there playing rugby with his son I think. He walked right up to me and I saw he was covered head to toe in mud.”

While rugby is a favourite of his boss, the Prime Minister, father-of-three Mr Hancock is instead known for his cricketing prowess and plays for the parliamentary side. 

Lockdown rules state that people can leave their homes for exercise by themselves, with the people they live with or with a legally-permitted support bubble. Official guidance does not rule out ball sports. 

Ministers are launching an advertising blitz to hammer home the importance of sticking to lockdown rules while the biggest vaccination drive in British history paves a path out of the pandemic.

Worth reading in full.

Are COVID-19 Patients in Hospital Really Getting Younger?

PA Media

Are Covid patients getting younger? The senior doctor who writes regularly for Lockdown Sceptics has taken a look at the data and thinks not.

Recently there have been a series of claims in the media that patients in hospital with COVID-19 are younger than they were in the spring. These assertions have been vigorously contested or supported by contributors to social media, feeding an unhelpful coarsening of debate and distasteful ad hominem attacks.

In my last post I examined one of these claims made by BBC reporter Hugh Pym after a visit to Croydon Hospital. I was unable to find any significant increase in younger patients, either from the latest NHS Hospital data, the ONS death data or the ICNARC ICU audit data to support his assertion.

Having had time to look into the monthly packet from January 14th in more detail, I now examine three other specific claims. Readers may find this information a bit dense and technical, but it’s important to establish whether claims made in the media, which have a substantial impact on public opinion, are backed up by officially published figures. It is only by careful analysis and honest transparent discussion that we can arrive at the truth. No one is infallible, which is why peer review is important.

The usual caveats apply: We can only assess the information the NHS allows us to see in the form in which they present it (which leaves a lot to be desired) – and we have to assume it is accurate.

  1. On December 31st, a nurse at King’s College Hospital gave an interview to Adrian Chiles on Radio 5 live in which she said there were many more children affected by COVID-19 in the winter compared to the spring. She said there was a “whole ward” of sick children in her hospital and many of her colleagues in other trusts had the same problem.
  2. An ICU consultant at Queen Mary University, London has said there are more younger people in ICU with COVID-19 compared to the spring.
  3. In an interview on Sky TV, a doctor from the Royal Surrey county hospital said that the patients with COVID-19 were sicker and younger in the winter than in the spring.

I have examined the available data to see what quantitative evidence from the official figures there is to support these assertions.

Table 1 shows the total number of COVID-19 diagnoses made on children at Kings College Hospital in two comparable six week periods from the spring and the winter. There is no significant difference between the two periods. Twenty four patients admitted over six weeks with short lengths of stay does not constitute a “ward full” of patients.

Table 1

Graph 1 shows the number of COVID-19 inpatients at two leading children’s hospitals. Great Ormond St in London and Alder Hey in Liverpool. The graph shows that there are fewer children in both hospitals in the winter than in the spring. The overall numbers are low, fewer than 30 at the spring peak, fewer than 20 in the winter. Great Ormond Street in particular has seen very low numbers of children ill enough with COVID-19 to warrant admission this winter.

Graph 1

So, I don’t think the data published by the NHS supports the assertion that there is an increased proportion of children sick with COVID-19 compared to the spring. This begs the question, why did the nurse make such a statement, and does she have convincing evidence to back it up which contradicts the officially published figures?

I did notice that the teaching unions retweeted the interview immediately after it was broadcast. It was around the time when they were agitating for the Government to close schools. Correlation does not imply causation of course, but it does seem a curious temporal juxtaposition.

ICU COVID-19 Age Profiles

Table 2 shows age stratification data from 14,710 patients admitted to ICU in England between Sept 1st and January 14th published in the most recent ICNARC audit. It shows that 8.2% of admissions to ICU in the period were under 40. That doesn’t seem to be an excessive proportion of younger people.

Table 2

Unfortunately, the raw data for the period up to August 31st is not available on the ICNARC site. However, the same information was used in a recently published paper in Intensive Care Medicine called “COVID-19 in critical care: epidemiology of the first epidemic wave across England, Wales and Northern Ireland”.

In the paper the age groupings were quoted slightly differently to the raw data from the cohort of patients from September to January, so I have aligned the information enabling a direct comparison between the ages of ICU patients in the spring and the winter in Table 3. The only difference is a skew to the older age group in the winter. The data reported in the literature from ICUs in other European countries are broadly comparable with the UK ICNARC figures.

Table 3

I have not been able to find detailed information as to the age profile of patients in ICU at Barts and the Royal London to compare with the national figures, so it is entirely possible that their local population differs significantly from the national case mix. On a national level there appears to be no significant difference between the age profiles of ICU patients between spring and winter in the figures I have access to.

Searching the published literature on PubMed I can find a couple of relevant papers. Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore noted in the Lancet in April that clinical obesity was associated with younger patients being admitted to ICU.

Another study looked at increasing proportions of younger American patients testing positive for COVID-19 in the community and concluded this was a consequence of increased testing rather than a change in the demographics of the disease.

I wondered whether there might be a difference between age mixes in London compared to the whole of England. Table 4 suggests not. There is a slight skew towards the middle 18-64 band in London compared with the national figures, but London figures comparing spring to winter show the same percentages within each age band; nothing to indicate a major shift to younger people. Readers should note that the lower total numbers of patients in the spring is probably a testing artefact; much more testing is being done now than earlier in 2020, but the age stratified percentages are remarkably stable.

Table 4

Table 5 is a comparison of the age stratified COVID-19 diagnoses at the Royal Surrey Hospital between comparable six week periods in the spring and winter. The data is contained in the monthly summary of NHS COVID-19 activity published on January 14th. The figures show a slight increase in the percentage of patients over 85 years in the winter compared to the spring. There is no significant increase in patients in the younger cohort 18-64. Unfortunately, the NHS figures do not allow a more detailed analysis of this wide age band, so it is possible that within the 18-64 cohort, the numbers could be skewed to the younger side. Publication of local audit figures would be informative.

The NHS could also be more helpful in their presentation of the numbers. Simon Stevens reportedly told MP’s last week that under 55 year-olds made up 25% of hospital admissions.

That is consistent with the data presented in the 18-64 age group discussed above. He did not comment on whether the proportion of younger patients had changed since the spring. The NHS clearly has the granular figures on age stratification; it would be useful if they could present the data more precisely so the public had accurate figures to compare against media reporting.

Table 5

Why does any of this matter? If there are a larger number of younger patients in hospital with COVID-19, does that really make any difference, as long as the mortality rate remains low?

From the broader medical perspective it probably doesn’t matter at all, unless there is a significant change in the way younger people need to be managed to achieve better outcomes. If there is new clinical information relevant to treatment, that needs to be disseminated rapidly in the online medical press. I can’t find any such reports in the medical literature over the last two months in relation to younger age groups being affected more by COVID-19 in the winter compared to the spring.

On the other hand, doctors making claims in the media about COVID-19 which cannot be supported by published evidence does matter. In the current febrile climate, where alarmist reporting generates excessive public anxiety and increased social antagonism, it is important that medical professionals are careful only to report matters in the media that can be substantiated – and the plural of anecdote is not data.

Reporting that COVID-19 patients are younger and sicker than in the spring implies that the ‘new variant’ attacks younger people more readily than the previous manifestation of the virus and this clearly generates alarm in the population at large.

If doctors have evidence that COVID-19 is affecting a disproportionate number of young people, then that evidence should be published in the peer reviewed journals via online portals so the whole profession can have a look at it – not issued as ad hoc sound bites to reporters panting for a sensational story or as Twitter clickbait. If the publicly available information does not support the assertion, the suspicion will be that the thrill of being in the media spotlight has got the better of sound clinical judgement.

Confessions of a Psychologist: “I’m Having to Turn Away Grieving Teenagers”

The Sunday Telegraph has published an article today by psychologist Dr Vanessa Moulton who has seen an explosion in mental health problems among teenagers.

For the first time ever in my 10 years of working as a psychologist, the number of people coming to me for help has surpassed anything I am capable of coping with. I am turning people away every week, something I’ve never done before, because I’m at capacity. I hate doing it, because there are so many who need help, and mental health provision across the NHS and private sector is bursting at the seams, but often all I can do is give them a list of names and wish them well. The worst thing is that so many of them are parents of teenagers who are dangerously unhappy. 

Compared to the atrocities people across the country are facing at the moment, not being able to go to school or see your friends might sound like small fry, but it isn’t. I have seen a huge spike in the numbers of teenagers seeking mental health support, and if lockdown goes on much longer, I fear it will only get worse

We talk about loss a lot at the moment – for teenagers, the loss of social interaction is profound, and for many it is having a huge developmental impact. The teens coming through my (virtual) doors these past months have been suffering with loneliness, a sense of crippling helplessness, and a total lack of motivation. All of which adds up to make life feel pretty relentlessly bleak. For many of these young people, what I’m helping them with is a form of grief. 

The parents who contact me are so worried, because it can be hard to tell if your 14 year-old is just “being a teenager” or if they are particularly, notably low. They don’t know what to do, and in lockdown there isn’t a lot they can do. They can’t fashion a social life and a sense of structure and purpose where there isn’t one. What worries me is that the teens I see have at least taken that step, or a parent or carer has, of seeking help. 

There will be many, many children out there suffering in silence. In many families the adults are having such a difficult time of it that they may not be fully cognisant of how quiet their teenager has become. In many cases a child doesn’t feel able to tell someone they are so low, perhaps because they don’t understand it themselves or feel ashamed. I am currently helping one teenager who had never suffered mental health problems before this past year, but with the loss of his social group, the sense of disempowerment and helplessness, they became so low they started self-harming. It is so devastating to see the effects of this pandemic on young people like them. 

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: The Observer reports that a coalition of child experts are pressing for an inquiry into the impact of the COVID-19 response on children’s education, development and mental health.

The World’s Most Powerful Passport

Credit: AlexLMX/Getty Images

Euronews reports that the World Health Organisation has, for the moment, recommended against vaccine passports.

The World Health Organisation said on Friday it was opposed “for the time being’ to the introduction of certificates of vaccination – so-called “vaccine passports” – against COVID-19 as a condition for allowing international travellers into other countries.

Several countries have already signalled their interest in producing vaccine passports in some form, including Spain, Belgium, Iceland, Estonia, and Denmark.

“There are still too many fundamental unknowns in terms of the effectiveness of vaccines in reducing (virus) transmission and vaccines are still only available in limited quantities,” the committee said in its recommendations…

Nonetheless, the WHO may in time need to change its advice in order to keep up with the politics, according to the Euronews report. Last Thursday, Poland announced that it was going to introduce passports:

The country’s Deputy Health Minister Anna Golawska said Poles would be able able to access certification in the form of a downloadable QR code after they received the second dose of a coronavirus vaccine. The code would then allow the recipient to “use the rights to which vaccinated people are entitled”.

Worth reading in full.

We reported on January 13th that companies MVine and iProov have designed a digital passport app set to undergo a Government-funded trial. Across the pond meanwhile, CTVNews reports that a number of tech giants are joining together to create something called the Vaccine Credential Initiative.

With coronavirus vaccines now rolling out across the United States, businesses and schools are considering how, and what it will take, to safely resume in-person operations.

Some of the country’s biggest tech firms and health care organizations have joined together to help facilitate that return to “normal”. The group, called the Vaccine Credential Initiative, wants to ensure that everyone has access to a secure, digital record of their COVID-19 vaccination – like a digital vaccine passport – that can be stored in people’s smartphones. The records could be used for everything from airline travel to entering concert venues.

The coalition comprises a broad range of health care and tech leaders including Microsoft, Salesforce, Oracle, Cerner, Cigna’s Evernorth, health care software firm Epic and the Mayo Clinic, among others…

The Vaccine Credential Initiative wants to create an open-source, standard model for how hospitals, pharmacies and clinics administering COVID-19 vaccines make digital records of immunizations, which can be provided to patients who want them.

Immunizations are typically tracked by writing them down on a paper card for people to store with their important records, and are also kept track of in a patient’s electronic medical records.

But for a number of reasons, the COVID-19 vaccination required developing a different system. For one thing, coronavirus vaccination records will need to be more easily transported if people have to use them to access schools, offices and event venues, making a digital record more practical. They also need to be “interoperable”, meaning all organizations administering the shots should use the same model for recording vaccine credentials.

“It’s not just for health care purposes that you will need this health data,” Paul Meyer, CEO of non-profit The Commons Project, told CNN Business. The Commons Project created an app called Common Pass, where people can store digital records of their COVID-19 test results and, eventually, their COVID-19 vaccination record.

“Now you are going to need either your lab results or vaccination data to get on an airplane, to go to school, go to work, real life, non-health-care use cases,” Meyer said. “And it needs to be in a standard form so when you’re presenting it, people actually understand, ‘Oh, it was the Pfizer vaccine that you got.'”

The COVID-19 vaccination record also needs to be verifiable and secure in a way that was less important for past vaccination records, otherwise, a person could try to fake having gotten the COVID-19 vaccine by using someone else’s record, Meyer said.

Worth reading in full.

Large tech companies storing the private medical data of many thousands of people. What could possibly go wrong? Read more about the Vaccination Credential Initiative on their website here.

Stop Press: Reuters reports that the European Commission is working on a certificate dubbed “Vaxproof”. It looks like they will have until 2022 to get it done, judging from this tweet by journalist Bruno Maçães.

https://twitter.com/MacaesBruno/status/1350383121448005634?s=20

Scottish Churches Fight to Re-Open

CNS photo/Alessandro Garofalo, Reuters

A group of church leaders in Scotland, from a range of denominations, have submitted a pre-action letter to the Scottish Government, calling on it to reverse the rules which require their closure. A press release from Christian advocacy group Christian Concern has the details:

Restrictions outlined by First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, on Friday January 8th, without debate, have made it a criminal offence for churches to hold services in-person and, for example, to conduct baptisms in the highest tiers.

The closure of churches in Scotland is unprecedented, with no attempt to close them since the Stuart kings made it a capital offence to meet for worship and listen to preaching other than that of the established church in the 17th century.

The pre-action letter states that the church leaders wish to emphasise that they “fully understand the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic and they appreciate that the Scottish Government is required to make difficult decisions as it seeks to take steps to decrease the spread of the virus“.

However, the leaders say that they believe the Scottish Ministers’ have “failed to appreciate that the closure of places of worship is a disproportionate step, and one which has serious implications for freedom of religion“.

The letter contends that the regulations that came into force on January 8th 2021 are in violation of Article 9, read with Article 11, of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The letter identifies that with suitable restrictions in place, public transport, essential shops, professional sport, and the court system continue to function. Yet, places of worship are closed.

It states that this closure is: “arbitrary, inconsistent and disproportionate when looked at in light of the Convention. The closure of places of worship and the criminalisation of collective manifestation of religion which takes place under carefully and responsibly controlled conditions goes too far.

Outlining the position of the church leaders on how the separation of church and state is a fundamental feature of the constitution of Scotland, the letter argues that the current restrictions on church activity violates the Act of 1592.

This Act, which gave authority to the church over all matters ecclesiastical, also gave the elders of each church a specific legal responsibility to ensure that regular worship continued.

The press release goes on to describe the dangerous precedent set by the state closing churches.

The Scottish pre-action letter comes as leaders in England and Wales continue to pursue a judicial review over their respective Government’s decision to close churches during the November 2020 Lockdown.

An oral permission hearing is set for Monday January 25th at the Cardiff Civil Justice Centre, which will decide whether the case will go to full judicial review.

During a parliamentary debate ahead of the November 2020 lockdown in England, former Prime Minister Theresa May said of the English Government’s decision to close places of worship:

“My concern is the Government today making it illegal to conduct an act of public worship for the best of intentions, sets a precedent that could be misused for a Government in the future with the worst of intentions. It has unintended consequences.”

When asked in November 2020 how the English Government had justified closing places of worship, chief scientific advisors, Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance, said: “We haven’t got good evidence”, “this is not a very exact science at all” and “we don’t have good data to answer that with any degree of certainty”.

Similarly, the Scottish Government has failed to present any scientific evidence to justify church closures.

Worth reading in full.

The Church leaders’ pre-action letter can be read in full here (pdf).

Stop Press: Mayor Sadiq Kahn has called for places of worship in London to be closed, a call which religious leaders have rejected.

Stop Press 2: Christian Concern responded to the Government’s recent call for evidence about the Human Rights impact of lockdown with a submission highlighting the cost to religious freedom.

Back to Normal

The Back to Normal postcard being delivered across the country

Back to Normal, is a public-facing, grass roots group, campaigning to end the lockdown and they are looking for volunteers. It’s spokesman, Geoff Cox, has written the guest post below.

Back to Normal is a growing band of lockdown sceptics from all walks of life who are determined to counter the tidal wave of hysterical pronouncements from the Government and the media. Through small groups of sceptics across the UK, we are delivering our message outside the control of the Government or Twitter or the BBC.

Although we have a website and a presence on social media, we have a deliberately low tech operation and have produced a simple, well worded postcard-sized leaflet, to be hand-delivered by volunteers. Our aim is to distribute one million to houses all over the country. We are on our way and at the last count had reached 235,000.

Currently we also have 100 small, loosely affiliated groups operating at constituency level. We’ve chosen to work in constituencies, mainly because they are well defined and a manageable size, but also because they are the heart of the political process. In time, our volunteers may choose to take a more active role politically – a letter writing campaign to the local press or perhaps supporting one of the new political parties who are making sceptic noises; even possibly standing for election as independents.

Doing something is better than doing nothing: it raises our morale and annoys the Government. Please become a postman and deliver some postcards and let’s get Back to Normal.

You can follow us on Facebook here, on MeWe here, or get in touch by email.

Readers Respond to Ipso’s Ruling Against Toby

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune are currently heading in one direction

As we reported yesterday, Ipso, the independent press regulator, upheld a complaint against the Telegraph for publishing a “misleading” opinion piece by Toby. Ipso objected to his claim that the population of London was approaching herd immunity in July, in spite of the fact that seroprevalence surveys indicated only 17% of Londoners had antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, and dismissed the idea that T Cells could provide comparable immunity to antibodies. It also dismissed as “inaccurate” his claim that exposure to those coronavirus that cause some varieties of the common cold will provide some people with immunity to COVID-19.

Toby thinks Ipso has got this one wrong and yesterday we invited readers, particularly those with a scientific background, to send in their comments.

Dr Rachel Nicholl, a Researcher in the Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine at Umea University, Sweden, who recently had a rapid response published in the BMJ in which she hypothesised “that exposure to some of the common cold viruses can induce immunity to other coronaviruses”, sent this response.

Herd immunity is a concept. It has never been proven to exist and there has been no outbreak where scientists definitively concluded that herd immunity was reached. In fact, the sheer logic of it suggests that it is a moveable feast and if we did achieve it one day, we would have likely lost it the next.

Some scientists equate herd immunity with whether R0 (the ‘R number’) is below 1 – see this article in Nature. I believe R0 was <1 over the summer.

My article in the BMJ highlighted the fact that we have some pre-existing immunity (coronaviruses make up around 1/3 of all common cold viruses) and the problems with relying merely on IgG antibodies.

So yes, you got some things wrong in your article, notably your prediction that there wouldn’t be a second wave, but arguably the lockdown and intensive sanitisation contributed to the second wave. Immune systems need to be challenged to be healthy. We need to circulate among people, picking up the odd virus here and there, and collecting bacteria from unsanitised surfaces. This is healthy. Also ‘stay home’ meant we were not going out and topping up our vitamin D from the sun. So our immune systems faced the autumn in a poorer state than usual. I’m not suggesting the second wave would not have occurred without lockdown (there is too much else wrong with our immune systems!) but it might not have been so severe.

Here’s what another senior scientist wrote:

Viruses are killed by T cells. That is what T cells are for. What the hell do they think T cells are for? Antibodies are just markers.

There has been an erroneous assumption that 100% of the population were susceptible to Covid at the beginning of the pandemic. We know this is not true, in part because during outbreaks in spring, when thorough testing was carried out, 50% of people demonstrated immunity by testing positive in the absence of symptoms.

The 17% figure for London discounts all prior immunity. Adding in the 50% figure above gets you to 67% = herd immunity.

Antibodies and T cell responses are wonderfully flexible. They both notice shapes rather than specific amino acids or letters of genetic sequence. When you are matching shapes you get plenty of overlap. Also, our responses to one virus are hugely diverse. We make antibodies to every corner and crevice of the shapes. These shapes will overlap with things we have seen before. They need not only overlap with other coronaviruses. In fact there is excellent evidence that prior immunity came largely from our immune responses to mumps.

Viv Evans, a retired zoologist with a Phd in Cell Biology, sent the following comment:

I’m sure other scientists contributing regularly to Lockdown Sceptics will have pointed out that ‘science’ and scientific research results are not carved in stone, that they change with research and are not meant to be adhered to, like immutable laws, in perpetuity.

It is impossible to predict research results from ongoing, properly scientific studies and it often turns out that an opinion by a lay person is in fact supported by later research.

If an opinion piece can be criticised retroactively, the author admonished, the publication made to retract during an ongoing scientific debate, then that ‘judgement’ can equally be questioned, a retraction of it can equally be demanded based on more recent scientific developments. [Dr Evans then included a link to the rapid response in the BMJ written by Dr Nicholl.]

A reader sent in this:

Surely the constant claim from SAGE and Government that having had Covid does not confer immunity is grossly misleading. IPSO says nothing.

As is the claim that people can have Covid many times – without qualifying it by saying if this has happened at all it has been very rare.

A GP in Hereford sent these encouraging words:

Knowing how hard it is to stand up against the orthodoxy I just wanted to encourage Toby not to stop his excellent and brave work on behalf of all free people. I really admire what he is doing.

And regular Lockdown Sceptics contributor Neville Hodgkinson, a former medical and science correspondent of the Daily Mail and Sunday Times, and the author of AIDS: The Failure of Contemporary Science (Fourth Estate, 1996), sent in this comment:

With regard to the Ipso ruling: leaving aside uncertainties around the science, I’d like to comment on the huge public importance of Lockdown Sceptics in countering the fear about COVID that has been induced by Government policies, a majority of politicians on both left and right, and much of the mainstream media.

It seems to me that “attack dogs” of fear have been let loose in the belief that this is the best way to counter the epidemic. In particular, I have been dismayed at seeing the BBC abandoning its much prized impartiality to become an unquestioning mouthpiece for official policy. The contrast with talkRADIO’s performance is immense.

Of course, people need to know that a nasty and potentially lethal infection is circulating. But exaggerated forecasts, misleading description of PCR test results as “cases”, panic over “new variants”, global death statistics, mask-wearing, social distancing, job losses, relatives dying alone, businesses failing, operations postponed, and almost daily changes of the rules on travel and even going for a walk, all carry a price in terms of increased susceptibility to infectious disease.

Decades of work by Professor Sheldon Cohen’s team at Carnegie Mellon University in the USA has highlighted the effect of social support systems in strengthening immunity to disease, and of stress in reducing it (as a Lockdown Sceptics contributor has previously reported). The team has performed laboratory as well as field work to gain detailed understanding of pathways that link stress, personality, and social networks, to disease susceptibility. Many of these insights arose from Sheldon’s classic work on the role of psychosocial factors in susceptibility to the common cold, published in the New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical Association.

It would be hugely helpful to us all, including the hard-pressed NHS, if government advisors would reconsider current strategy completely. We need measures to enable us to feel more in charge of our own destinies, instead of being herded around – and in some cases frightened to death – like timid sheep.

Stop Press: Mike Robinson and Patrick Henningsen at UK Column devoted some time to defending Toby yesterday. The relevant bit starts at the six minute mark.

Round-up

https://twitter.com/city_affairs/status/1349982707829321728

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Five today: “Schweizerpsalm” by Alberich Zwyssig performed by the National Anthem of Switzerland, “Wake Up and Live” by Bob Marley, “Get Up, Stand Up” by Bob Marley, “Help!” by The Beatles and “Standin’ in the Rain” by the Electric Light Orchestra.

Love in the Time of Covid

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

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums, 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 Green Unpleasant Land, a recently published work by the Professor of Post Colonial Literature at the University of Leicester who worked on the National Trust report addressing the historic links of its properties with colonialism and slavery, and who is presently in charge of the Colonial Countryside Project at the National Trust. The Daily Mail has the story:

Last week Corinne Fowler, Professor of Post-Colonial Literature at the University of Leicester, published a sprawling 316-page work examining the links between the British countryside, racism, slavery and our colonial past.

Among her startling conclusions? Our cherished national pastime, gardening, has its roots in racial injustice.

Should we be surprised? Perhaps not. The book’s title, Green Unpleasant Land, gives us an indication of Professor Fowler’s thoughts on the countryside…

Professor Fowler insists that our “green and pleasant land”, as the poet William Blake put it, is anything but. Our countryside, she suggests, is a hotbed of oppression, racism and exploitation, and it is time for its dark history to be exposed.

Intriguingly, Fowler acknowledges that her own family had long-standing connections to slavery and colonialism, through sugar plantations in the Caribbean. As she says in the book on this issue: “I make no claim to neutrality… Our relatives either profited from empire, or were impoverished by it.”

The professor also writes that her parents gave her a love of country walking.

She appears to have rambled tirelessly along country lanes finding evidence to prove her central premise: that the British countryside is linked inexorably to racism and colonialism.

“The countryside is a terrain of inequalities,” she writes, “so it should not surprise us that it should be seen as a place of particular hostility to those who are seen as not to belong, principally black and Asian Britons.”

Many great estates were financed by slavery and colonialism, and the origins of gardening were fundamentally elitist: “Knowledge about gardens and plants, in particular botany, has had deep colonial resonances,” she says.

“The scientific categorisation of plants has at times engaged in the same hierarchies of race that justified empire and slave and slavery…”

“Inevitably, then,” she adds, “gardens are matters of class and privilege.”

Racism is ingrained not just in gardening, she believes, but in many of our rural traditions. She cites as an example our nation’s approach to that symbol of rural Britain, the pheasant.

She says that the bird’s heritage has effectively been hijacked by the indigenous white population. We are all in denial, apparently, about its Asian origins.

“This bird,” she writes, “is habitually represented as native to England’s fields, hedgerows and woodlands…” But, she stresses, it “is a global not a local bird”. A clear case of cultural appropriation.

Morris dancing is another source of controversy. “The face-blackening practised by the dancers has become a potent symbol of rural racism.” And, to be fair, many Morris dancing groups have now abandoned the practice.

She is unimpressed by former Tory Prime Minister John Major’s evocative prediction in 1993 that “50 years from now, Britain will still be the country of long shadows on county grounds, warm beer, invincible green suburbs, dog lovers and, as George Orwell said, old maids bicycling to Holy Communion through the morning mist.” “Rural Britain,” she counters dismissively “…is rarely peaceful. The elderliness of the maids is incongruous with the many itinerant female East Europeans who, before Brexit, picked the fruit and vegetables that grace our tables.”

And there is more, much more, in the same vein running through her book.

As she says, she makes no claim to neutrality.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: The Spectator US has initiated a new column called Wokeyleaks. It’s anonymous author (pronouns they/them) starts off with a piece on the blurring of the boundaries between social media and social justice.

Stop Press 2: In an article for the Telegraph, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has said that he is changing the law in order to “protect Britain’s statues from the woke militants who want to censor our past”.

“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 new piece of research has come up with an old answer: masks could lead to more Covid spread. Medical Xpress reports:

A novel new study suggests that the behaviour public officials are now mandating or recommending unequivocally to slow the spread of surging COVID-19 – wearing a face covering – should come with a caveat. If not accompanied by proper public education, the practice could lead to more infections.

The finding is part of an unique study, just published in JMIR Public Health and Surveillance, that was conducted by a team of health economists and public health faculty at the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine in partnership with public health officials for the state of Vermont.

The study combines survey data gathered from adults living in north-western Vermont with test results that showed whether a subset of them had contracted COVID-19, a dual research approach that few COVID studies have employed. By correlating the two data sets, researchers were able to determine what behaviours and circumstances increased respondents’ risk of becoming sick.

The key risk factor driving transmission of the disease, the study found, was the number of daily contacts participants had with other adults and seniors.

That had relevance for two other findings.

Those who wore masks had more of these daily contacts compared with those who didn’t, and a higher proportion contracted the virus as a result.

Basic human psychology could be at work, said Eline van den Broek-Altenburg, an Assistant Professor and Vice Chair for Population Health Science in the Department of Radiology at the Larner College of Medicine and the study’s principal investigator.

“When you wear a mask, you may have a deceptive sense of being protected and have more interactions with other people,” she said.

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.

Stop Press: Prof Martin Kulldorff has reminded people on Twitter that the lockdown strategy is a form of focused protection – “of affluent professionals, while letting it rip among the working class, hitting inner cities the hardest”.

https://twitter.com/MartinKulldorff/status/1350212567650734083?s=20

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…

Bob Moran’s cartoon in today’s Sunday Telegraph

Complaint to the GMC about Mandatory Vaccines

by Dr. Graeme Munro-Hall and Dr. Lilian Munro-Hall

We are retired general dental practitioners and former registrants of the GDC, Dr Graeme Munro-Hall (GDC 45121) and Dr Lilian Munro-Hall (82913). As avid cruisers and potential guests of Saga cruises we have written to Saga Cruises about their mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy for their guests. No reply has been received yet. We, who have declined these vaccines, are being discriminated against by Saga Cruises on the basis of not wanting to participate in a particular form of experimental medical treatment. The FDA describes these vaccines as “Investigational” and “experimental”.

Extracts of the letter are below.

We are seeking advice as to whether it will be an appropriate course of action to request that the General Medical Council take action against Saga Cruises, and specifically Nigel Blanks, the Chief Executive Officer of Saga Cruises, for, in effect, practicing medicine without a licence while being unqualified and unregistered to do so thereby potentially endangering the health and wellbeing of UK citizens.

The General Medical Council must take steps to instruct Saga Cruises and Nigel Blanks to cease and desist immediately from the Practice of Medicine .

We feel this is putting undue pressure on people to undergo an experimental medical treatment.

The Nuremberg Convention in article 1 states that

any person involved in (medical treatment) must be able to exercise free power of choice and voluntary consent is absolutely essential and that this must be given without any element of duress. Experimental medical treatment requires that the subject know the nature, duration, purpose of the experiment, the method and means by which it is to be conducted, all inconveniences and hazards reasonably to be expected and the effects upon health or person which may possibly come from participation in the experiment.

On January 20th this year, Nigel Blanks, Chief Executive Officer for Saga Cruises, published a statement in which he, on behalf of Saga Cruises, announced the introduction of mandatory COVID-19 vaccination on all guests wishing to partake in a Saga Cruise.

This was followed by an extensive media advertising campaign announcing that all guests must be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to travel with Saga Cruises.

This goes against the recommendations with regard to mandatory vaccination of:

  • UK Govt
  • The Council of Europe

It also involves:

  • Unquantifiable health risks by putting undue pressure on people to participate in the largest medical experiment in human history.
  • Breaches of human rights and the tenets of Informed Consent and is in violation of article one of the Nuremberg Code
  • Discrimination on philosophical, religious, medical and age grounds.

What Saga Cruises are doing is practising medicine.

Definition of the Practice of Medicine

A third party is involved in the Practice of Medicine when medical decisions are taken out of the hands of individual doctors and are instead controlled, even in part, by non-physicians, Saga Cruises in this instance. Third parties should not meddle with and effectively, directly or indirectly, control or in some way influence the course of medical practice.

The Practice of Medicine involves the diagnosis, treatment, PREVENTION, cure, or relieving human disease, ailment, defect, complaint or other physical or mental condition by attendance, ADVICE, diagnostic test OR OTHER MEANS or offering, undertaking, attempting to do or holding oneself out as able to do so, any of these acts.

(The Free Dictionary – legal definitions.)

The statement outlined in bold type in their document,

We have taken the decision to introduce the requirement that all guests must be fully vaccinated against COVID‑19 at least 14 days before sailing with us.

is clearly and unequivocally practising medicine by making vaccination against COVID-19 mandatory for their guests.

If Saga make access to Saga services offered by Saga Cruises available only after specific mandatory medical treatment, it assumes the responsibility of making sure that the mandated medical treatment is:

  • Safe
  • Effective
  • Non-discriminatory and given with full informed consent
  • Proportionate to the risk following a risk and benefits evaluation.

When mandating a medical treatment, Saga Cruises and Nigel Blanks have a Duty of Care to those affected.

They cannot hide behind any declarations of safety and efficacy of any regulatory body or Government department or pharmaceutical company as they must do their own risk and benefit evaluation based on the published and verifiable facts.

Failure to do this is wilfully and deliberately putting their guests health and wellbeing at risk.

Safety

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the USA, have called the mRNA vaccines of Moderna and Pfizer as well as the AstraZeneca vaccine an “Investigational drug”.

Quoting the FDA, “Investigational drug also called an experimental drug and is being studied to see if a disease or medical condition improves while taking it.”

None of these drugs has approval to be used as a vaccine and has passed the safety and efficacy standards set by the FDA for vaccines.

Saga Cruises are mandating for their guests a medical treatment that is in the words of the regulator, “experimental”.

Many medical professionals and nations have expressed deep concerns about the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines. Researchers from the School of Public Health University of California found that 65% of healthcare workers surveyed will refuse a vaccine until they can review the data and be sure that it is proven to be safe.

COVID-19 is primarily a disease of the upper respiratory tract and there is a correlation between the flu jab and an increase in upper respiratory tract infections. This has been reported in the BMJ.

A January 2020 study published in the journal Vaccine also found people were more likely to get some form of coronavirus infection if they had been vaccinated against influenza.

The correlation between the flu jab and COVID-19 deaths has been verified by scientific analysis.

A January 2020 study published in the journal Vaccine also found people were more likely to get some form of coronavirus infection if they had been vaccinated against influenza.

Whilst correlation is not proof of causation it does call into question the safety of such vaccinations when mandated for predominantly elderly guests who are the target group for flu vaccination campaigns. This would make them be more likely to have received a flu jab and, therefore, have a higher risk of contracting COVID-19.

Some countries have either banned or restricted the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine as of February 6th 2021. Switzerland has a total ban on this vaccine and France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Poland, Spain and Sweden have restrictions on administering the vaccine based on advancing age.

The reasons given are “Insufficient data regarding the safety and efficacy of the AstraZeneca drug”. This does not include the data that this vaccine may be less effective for the new COVID-19 variant.

For Saga Cruises to mandate treatment that may include the administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine seems to us an abdication of the duty of care they owe to their guests.

The mRNA vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna are a novel technology.

The long-term effect of such drugs is completely unknown. Anyone taking the drug is taking part of a long-term trial for the safety and efficacy of the drug, whether they are aware of the fact or not. It is entirely experimental in nature.

These mRNA vaccines are designed to instruct cells to produce certain proteins by the insertion of synthetic mRNA or DNA into the cells. Moderna does not call its drug a vaccine but “Operating Platform – The Software of Life”. The chromosomal DNA of the cell is presumably the ‘hardware’. However, once this “software” is downloaded and installed into the cell, there is no way of uninstalling it.

The long-term consequences on health are entirely unknown.

Many scientists and medical professionals have voiced their concern about the hypothesised but realistic side effects that include male and female infertility, cardiovascular disease and, in an FDA paper on COVID-19 vaccine side effects, increased auto-immune disease, strokes, encephalitis, birth defects, Kawasaki disease and death.

The Front Line Doctors of America in a White Paper call the brand-new technology utilising messenger RNA “The largest experimental medication program in our history”. “No vaccine” based on this technology, they say, “has ever been approved for any disease, or even entered final-stage trials until now, so there’s no peer-reviewed published human data to compare how mRNA stacks up against older technologies.”

There have been no independently published animal studies. Previous coronavirus vaccines developed over decades have consistently failed in animal trials with the death of their subjects (and two children).

These novel vaccines were developed and produced in a matter of months rather than years as is usually the case. The target in the cell for the mRNA vaccines is similar to gamete (sperm) production instruction in males and mammalian placenta development in females. It is unknown if the vaccines will have an effect on human fertility but is a possibility as admitted by the UK Government in a 10-page report last year stating that it is “unknown whether COVID-19 mRNA vaccine has an impact on human fertility”.

While this will not be an issue for the majority of Saga Cruises guests personally, it is a cause of grave concern to the population as a whole and a significant issue for the crew. The paper also warned that the vaccine should not be used in pregnant or nursing women.

Another cause for concern is that vaccine recipients may become more vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus as prior coronavirus vaccines have failed due to the scientific phenomenon known as pathogenic priming that makes the vaccine recipient more likely to suffer a sudden fatal outcome due to massive cytokine storm when exposed to the wild virus.

Pathogenic Priming is when, rather than enhancing your immunity against the infection, exposure to a virus or vaccine enhances the virus’s ability to enter and infect your cells, resulting in more severe disease.

This is something that has been seen in previous vaccines for coronaviruses like COVID-19 and the reason none has ever previously made it to the market.

An immunologist, Dr Hooman Noorchashm MD PhD, in an open letter to the FDA states that there is a real possibility that those with pre-existing antigens to the virus in their tissues could be harmed, especially those with pre-existing cardiovascular disease. The length of time, 10-20 days, following vaccination before symptoms manifest (death) make it unlikely that the deaths or any severe reactions will be attributed to the vaccine.

COVID-19 is a virus with a particular affinity to heart tissue so mRNA vaccines could direct an antigen-specific attack on the heart itself.

In other words, the possibility of triggering an antibody-dependant enhancement or ADE event is very real and remains a significant concern.

Another significant concern is that the constituents of the vaccines can cause anaphylactic reactions which can be fatal. Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) is one such substance and there are others linked to nerve damage which would account for the many videos on social media showing individuals shaking uncontrollably after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

These reactions appear to be at a higher rate than is normally associated with vaccines. The CDC and the UK Government have issued guidance that anyone with an allergy to PEG or any of its near relatives should not receive a vaccine.

Saga Cruises would thus be discriminating against guests with pre-existing allergies. Some guests will have, as yet, undiagnosed allergies and may suffer harm as a result of the mandatory administration of these vaccines.

The CDC admits to one in 36 doses of the mRNA vaccine causing an adverse event strong enough to warrant medical attention or being unable to perform daily duties:

As of January 29th 2021 death was 4.45%, permanent disability was 1.39% and life-threatening conditions were 3.4% of these adverse events according to CDC released figures.

These vaccines can also cause a reduction of the immune system to respond to threats up to seven days after the initial dose as seen below:

This could explain, in part, the increase in over 80s UK COVID-19-related deaths following vaccination.

Looking at the actual numbers brings the stark reality of the unfolding tragedy into focus.
In the eight weeks before vaccination started on 08-12-20, the average number of deaths of the 80+ group was 760 per week.
In the eight weeks after vaccination started (up to 27-01-21) the average number of deaths in the 80+ group was 1838 per week.
This is nearly 2.5 times more than before after the vaccination programme started.
More simply put, for every two persons who died in the 80+ group prior to vaccination, five persons died after vaccination started.
To make it even more dramatic, in the first 10 months of 2020, the COVID-19 deaths for 80+ group was 16420. In the next three months up to 27-01-21 the deaths were 21820.
During the three month period ending in January 2021, there were 5400 more COVID-19 deaths than in the first 10 months of 2020. In the 80+ group.
The daily death rate of the 60-79 age group has also seen an increase.

In Conclusion: COVID-19 vaccines carry a significant risk to life and health in the short-term and have unknown long term-consequences that may be irreversible.

By mandating these vaccines to guests, both Saga Cruises and Nigel Blanks are coercing their guests to have a medical treatment that may prove to be detrimental to their health and well-being.

Effectiveness

It is also within the duty of care of Saga Cruises and Nigel Blanks to make sure that any proposed mandatory medical treatment is effective. For this, reliance has to be put on the data provided by the pharmaceutical companies and the question arises whether the data is valid and can be trusted.

Unfortunately, the pharma industry as a whole has a public history of being economical with the truth if it served their perceived economic interests.

For example (but they are by no means alone) in 2010 Robert G. Evans, PhD, Centre for Health Services and Policy Research Emeritus Professor, Vancouver School of Economics, UBC, published a paper that is available on PubMed titled Tough on Crime? Pfizer and the CIHR.

In it, he outlines the fact that, Pfizer has been a “habitual offender,” persistently engaging in illegal and corrupt marketing practices, bribing physicians and suppressing adverse trial results. Since 2002 the company and its subsidiaries have been assessed $3 billion in criminal convictions, civil penalties and jury awards. The 2.3-billion settlement set a new record for both criminal fines and total penalties.

The industry has been fined $14 billion. AstraZeneca have been fined $1.1 billion.

It is best to bear these facts in mind when assessing information provided by the industry. The bar was set exceptionally low for the companies in developing these vaccines. All they were required to do was to show a reduction in the severity of symptoms in 50% of cases.

They were not designed to:

  • Reduce the incidence of COVID-19.
  • Reduce the hospitalisation rate.
  • Reduce death rates.
  • Reduce ‘transmissibility’ of the virus after vaccination.

At the same time the pharmaceutical industry demanded and received a total blanket immunity against any liability with regards to the vaccines.

The individual and the taxpayer will bear the risks associated with the vaccines.

The efficacy claims of 95% for the Pfizer vaccine is a Relative Risk Reduction. The more meaningful Absolute Risk Reduction is nearer 0.4%. Another concern was the way the data was manipulated to exclude certain groups which would bring the Relative Risk Reduction to under 30%.

The same criticisms can be laid at the door of Moderna as well.

The efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine has been called similarly into question by German doctors who estimate the vaccine to be 8% effective in certain groups.

However, it could be argued, how effective do the vaccines need to be given that the CDC estimate of the Infection Fatality Rate (IFR) is remarkably low:

  • 0-19 years 99.997% survival rate
  • 20-49 years 99.98% survival rate
  • 50-69 years 99.55 survival rate
  • 70+ years 94.6% survival rate

In conclusion: Taking into consideration all the above information it is clear that the vaccines offer only limited protection against COVID-19.

All the information outlined here should have been considered by Saga Cruises and Nigel Blanks in a robust risk/benefit analysis before pressurising people into experimental medical treatments.

UK vaccine minister, Nadhim Zahawi, has stated that the UK Government has no plans for a ‘vaccine passport’ as that would be discriminatory. Previously, he had ruled out any chance of the Government making COVID-19 vaccines mandatory. Forcing guests to have a COVID-19 vaccine is inherently discriminatory. Saga Cruises, in demanding that guests have a COVID-19 vaccine, is behaving in an inherently discriminatory fashion.

The United Kingdom remains a member state of the Council of Europe.

Resolution 2361 of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe passed on 29-01-21 has this to say about COVID-19 vaccines.

COVID-19 vaccines: ethical, legal and practical considerations.

  • Ensure that citizens are informed that the vaccination is NOT mandatory and that no-one is politically, socially or otherwise pressured to get themselves vaccinated if they do not wish to do so themselves.
  • Ensure that no-one is discriminated against for not having been vaccinated due to possible health risks or not wanting to be vaccinated.
  • Transparent information on the safety and possible side effects of vaccines should be distributed.

The demands of Saga Cruises and Nigel Blanks are in direct contradiction of the statements of the UK vaccine minister and the Council of Europe Resolution 2361.

Saga Cruises is discriminating against whole groups of potential Saga Cruises guests:

  • Those with religious objections to the vaccine, i.e., Roman Catholics due to the use of aborted foetal tissue in the manufacture of the vaccines.
  • Disability and previous medical history will preclude many from having the vaccines. For example, some may have medical conditions such as previous allergies to vaccine.
  • Being old is enough to be a contra-indication to vaccination due to an age weakened immune system, poor nutritional status, etc.

Saga Cruises are discriminating against the Human Rights of potential guests on grounds of Religion, Medical History/Disability and Age.

This may be contrary to the Equality Act of 2010 and the appropriate advice is being sought. Aggravated damages can be awarded by a court if it judges the offence to be carried out in a heavy-handed matter as well as damages for injured feelings.

A spokesperson for Saga Cruises said that the crew of Saga ships were not forced to have vaccines only the guests. Perhaps this is because Saga Cruises management are aware that such a requirement might run afoul of employment law.

Informed Consent to any medical procedure is mandatory and relies on the transparency and accuracy of the information. The duty to impart this information about the vaccine is on the vaccinator but also applies to Saga Cruises and Nigel Blanks who have mandated the vaccine for their guests.

The Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights states that any preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic medical intervention must only be carried out with the prior, free and informed consent of the person concerned, based on adequate information.

Recipients of the vaccines need to be told:

  • The vaccines are experimental.
  • mRNA vaccines rely on a novel synthetic biology with an unknown long-term outcome.
  • The risks and benefits of the vaccines will not be known until at least 2023.
  • The risks relating to COVID-19 as applied to them.

UK guidelines to vaccinators state:

  • The person giving the consent must be appropriately informed with access to the information.
  • Consent needs to be given voluntarily and without coercion, undue pressure or deceit.
  • Consent is a legal requirement and the patient’s views must be respected and consent sought.
  • The patient must understand what they are consenting to.

Saga Cruises and Nigel Blanks cannot escape the duty of care they owe their guests by seeking proper informed consent before proceeding with their mandatory vaccination.

Saga Cruises and Nigel Blanks need to be transparent and publish the risk and benefit analysis for guests regarding COVID-19 vaccines.

In conclusion: The imposition of mandatory vaccines by Saga Cruises and Nigel Blanks is applying undue pressure and coercion which is a violation of the principle of Informed Consent and is discriminatory.

Saga Cruises should stop coercing potential guests into undergoing experimental medical treatments.

There is not enough data about the safety and the efficacy to make an informed decision about receiving these vaccines.

Dr. Graeme Munro-Hall (GDC 45121) and Dr. Lilian Munro-Hall (82913) are retired general dental practitioners and former registrants of the GDC. They can be contacted at Dr.GDr.L@protonmail.com.

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”.

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

“A Happy and Free Great British Summer”

Brighton Pier – about as exotic a locale as you’re likely to travel to this summer

Matt Hancock was interviewed by BBC Politics East yesterday and was in an optimistic frame of mind. The Metro has more.

Mr Hancock told BBC Politics East that there would be “a few tough few months between now and (summer)”, with many restrictions likely to be in place until the late spring.

But, he added: “In six months we’ll be in the middle, I hope, of a happy and free Great British summer. I have a high degree of confidence that by then the vast majority of adults will have been vaccinated – and that’s not just the clinically vulnerable groups, but all groups.”

By British Summer, he means British Summer. Readers will likely have seen the Governments new PR campaign, geared at reminding Brits, especially those working as social media influencers, that holidays outside the country are now strictly verboten.

https://twitter.com/FCDOtravelGovUK/status/1355176374428815367?s=20

The Telegraph has more.

The Health Secretary said on Sunday he hoped Britain could enjoy the return of lost freedoms this summer – but his language suggested those freedoms may not stretch to overseas travel, with the rest of the world much further behind in vaccination and continued concerns about the emergence of Covid variants…

However, ministers have been warned that Britain may not be able to abandon social distancing rules this year unless a vaccine proves to be 85% effective at stopping transmission of Covid as well as severe illness.

Last week, research from Israel suggested efficacy against transmission will be around 60% – but there is significant uncertainty, with a major study due to be published in Britain next month.

Modelling commissioned by SPI-M, a subgroup of Sage, and passed to Downing Street, suggests the UK could suffer a further huge spike in deaths unless inoculation cuts transmission significantly. Scientists involved in the studies have already said opening pubs before May could cause a third wave of Covid cases.

Worth reading in full.

Israel Today reports mounting frustration in the country, amidst mounting speculation that despite the vaccine drive, and its accompanying passport scheme, the progress out of lockdowns remains slow:

Israel’s successful COVID-19 vaccination drive has had a lot to do with folks being eager to finally be free of lockdowns and the ever-present threat of quarantine.

The Jewish state has for the past year been using advanced technology to track citizens who come into contact with an infected person, and order them into self-isolation. Those who violate the quarantine face a hefty fine.

Getting the shot provides Israelis with a “green passport” (certificate of vaccination) that, among other things, exempts the holder from the quarantine ordeal. But Channel 12 News reported at the weekend that officials at the Ministry of Health are considering cancelling the exemption amid concerns that vaccinated persons can still carry and spread COVID-19.

Professor Gabi Barbash, who last year lead the Government’s coronavirus task force, told Channel 12 that “vaccination alone won’t get the job done. We still don’t know for certain that vaccination will prevent a person from being infected”.

A number of other experts slammed the Ministry of Health over what they called premature speculation that can only serve to confuse the public and potentially harm the vaccination drive.

“We need to wait until more data is in before making decisions, and stop with the constant zig-zagging,” insisted Professor Nadav Davidovitch.

Why the hesitation? Mutant strains, of course.

The initial test results of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines provided great cause for hope. And mutations were certainly expected. But now some Israeli officials are raising concerns that the mutations could soon make obsolete the current vaccine, or at least eliminate many of the benefits of being inoculated.

“We don’t have evidence yet that any of the variants are completely resistant to the vaccine, but there is some preliminary evidence to say that perhaps the effectiveness of the vaccine is somewhat less against the South African variant,” said Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, head of public health services at the Ministry of Health, in remarks to the Kan public broadcaster.

Worth reading in full

Perhaps this explains Jet2’s focus on Summer 22 in its current advertising campaign rather than Summer 21. Has someone in Downing Street tipped them off?

Stop Press: The Telegraph points out that all but two of the 33 countries on the UK’s ‘red list’ of banned countries have lower infections rates, and several are seeing more than 10 times fewer infections than Britain.

Facebook’s Wrist Slapped by its Oversight Board for Covid Censorship

David Gothard, WSJ

Facebook’s Oversight Board was formed in October 2019 to support and review Facebook’s content management policies and practice, an area which has become fraught with difficulty for the social media platform. It began operating throughout 2020 and according to the website:

The board uses its independent judgment to support people’s right to free expression and ensure that those rights are being adequately respected. The board’s decisions to uphold or reverse Facebook’s content decisions will be binding, meaning that Facebook will have to implement them, unless doing so could violate the law.

Last week, the Board announced its first set of decisions and one of them is a corker.

The case concerned the removal of content concerning a treatment for sufferers of COVID-19 which, at the time, Facebook decided violated its misinformation and imminent harm rule.

In October 2020, a user posted a video and accompanying text in French in a public Facebook group related to COVID-19. The post alleged a scandal at the Agence Nationale de Sécurité du Médicament (the French agency responsible for regulating health products), which refused to authorise hydroxychloroquine combined with azithromycin for use against COVID-19, but authorised and promoted remdesivir. The user criticised the lack of a health strategy in France and stated that “[Didier] Raoult’s cure” is being used elsewhere to save lives. The user’s post also questioned what society had to lose by allowing doctors to prescribe in an emergency a “harmless drug” when the first symptoms of COVID-19 appear.

In its referral to the Board, Facebook cited this case as an example of the challenges the company faced when it came to assessing the risk of offline harm that could be caused by misinformation about COVID-19.

But – rather surprisingly – the Board overturned Facebook’s decision to censor the post.

Facebook removed the content for violating its misinformation and imminent harm rule, which is part of its Violence and Incitement Community Standard, finding the post contributed to the risk of imminent physical harm during a global pandemic. Facebook explained that it removed the post as it contained claims that a cure for COVID-19 exists. The company concluded that this could lead people to ignore health guidance or attempt to self-medicate.

The Board observed that, in this post, the user was opposing a governmental policy and aimed to change that policy. The combination of medicines that the post claims constitute a cure are not available without a prescription in France and the content does not encourage people to buy or take drugs without a prescription. Considering these and other contextual factors, the Board noted that Facebook had not demonstrated the post would rise to the level of imminent harm, as required by its own rule in the Community Standards.

The Board also found that Facebook’s decision did not comply with international human rights standards on limiting freedom of expression. Given that Facebook has a range of tools to deal with misinformation, such as providing users with additional context, the company failed to demonstrate why it did not choose a less intrusive option than removing the content.

The Board also found Facebook’s misinformation and imminent harm rule, which this post is said to have violated, to be inappropriately vague and inconsistent with international human rights standards. A patchwork of policies found on different parts of Facebook’s website make it difficult for users to understand what content is prohibited. Changes to Facebook’s COVID-19 policies announced in the company’s Newsroom have not always been reflected in its Community Standards, while some of these changes even appear to contradict them.

The Board instructed Facebook to restore the post.

It also recommended that Facebook

  • Create a new Community Standard on health misinformation, consolidating and clarifying the existing rules in one place. This should define key terms such as “misinformation.”
  • Adopt less intrusive means of enforcing its health misinformation policies where the content does not reach Facebook’s threshold of imminent physical harm.
  • Increase transparency around how it moderates health misinformation, including publishing a transparency report on how the Community Standards have been enforced during the COVID-19 pandemic. This recommendation draws upon the public comments the Board received.

Facebook has confirmed that that it will implement the Board decisions, which are binding, but said that its current approach would continue.

Given that we are in the midst of a global pandemic, we feel it’s important to briefly comment on the decision in the COVID-19 case. The board rightfully raises concerns that we can be more transparent about our COVID-19 misinformation policies. We agree that these policies could be clearer and intend to publish updated COVID-19 misinformation policies soon. We do believe, however, that it is critical for everyone to have access to accurate information, and our current approach in removing misinformation is based on extensive consultation with leading scientists, including from the CDC and WHO. During a global pandemic this approach will not change.

Most Vulnerable to COVID-19 are Most Likely to Become Infected in Belgium, Spain and the UK

When prominent scientists call for a strategy of ‘focused protection’, as described in the Great Barrington Declaration, the response is often that such an approach is nice in theory but unworkable in practice. This, despite the fact that the UK Government appears to be having a go at doing it through its shielding policy. Now Stanford University’s Professor John P. A. Ioannidis has examined the question in an article published on BMJ Global Health. He doesn’t think it’s impossible, but he notes that several countries have done the opposite – protected the least vulnerable and exposed the most vulnerable to the greatest risk of infection.

First he explains the concept of ‘precision shielding’.

Precision shielding stems from the concept of precision medicine and precision public health. The terms stratified medicine, individualised medicine and personalised medicine are also used. The success of the concept has two prerequisites: first, the ability to identify and separate reliably individuals who have very different risks; and second, the availability of effective interventions specifically for those at high risk. The proof that these prerequisites have been met is provided by the improved outcomes of these select, high-risk individuals who are targeted precisely.

There is very strong evidence that the risk of severe adverse outcomes and death in SARS-CoV-2 infected individuals shows extreme risk stratification according to age, and additional substantial risk stratification is possible according to gender, socioeconomic and clinical features. Different individuals (e.g. children vs debilitated elderly people) vary over 1000-fold in their estimated risk of death and other serious outcomes (e.g. hospitalisation) if infected. Therefore, since the first prerequisite is met, the main question is whether the second prerequisite can also be met, that is, whether interventions exist that can offer enhanced protection from SARS-CoV-2 infection targeted to those individuals who are at high risk.

He then explains what yardstick he would use to measure whether ‘precision shielding’ was working.

It is important to have some robust metrics that can assess reliably whether precision shielding is achieved or not. The most direct measure is the ratio of prevalence of ensuing infections among people at a high-risk group versus the prevalence of infections among people in a low-risk group. Let us call this ratio, S, the shielding ratio…

The potential benefit of precision shielding would be greater, when the shielding ratio is lower. A shielding ratio of S=1 means that low-risk and high-risk people are equally frequently infected, a shielding ratio of S=0.5 means that high-risk people have half the risk of being infected than low-risk ones. S may also take values above 1, if somehow high-risk people get more frequently infected than low-risk people, a situation of “inverse protection”.

You can see where this is heading, can’t you? He then crunches some numbers to show that, in fact, high-risk people are at significantly greater risk of being infected in some countries (Belgium, Spain and the UK) than low-risk populations during the first wave of infections last year.

As shown, Belgium, UK and Spain have had very unfavourable S values (S=1.9, 2.2. and 3.1 in the baseline scenario, potentially even higher in some sensitivity analyses). This means that people who were institutionalised in nursing homes were approximately two times as likely to be infected than the non-institutionalised population in Belgium and the UK and more than three times more likely to be infected than the non-institutionalised population in Spain.

Setting these figures in context, he continues:

The shielding ratio can be used as a metric to assess whether protection of high-risk populations is being achieved in a given country or jurisdiction. As shown, data from the first wave of COVID-19 suggest that the shielding ratio can take very different values, ranging from extremely effective protection of vulnerable high-risk populations to major inverse protection, where high-risk populations have been protected far less successfully than low-risk populations.

Fatality rates tend to be relatively low in countries where the elderly (and even more so the institutionalised elderly) have been effectively protected. It is possible that one can achieve better values of shielding (lower S) in nursing homes than in non-institutionalised elderly who are unavoidably more freely mobile in the community. Countries that have avoided massive infections in nursing homes have had much lower fatality burden from COVID-19 in the first wave. It is estimated that in the first wave, only 0.01% of South Korean nursing home residents died with COVID-19, as opposed to 3.3% in Sweden and more than 5% in Belgium, England and Spain. While there may be differences on how deaths are attributed to COVID-19 among nursing home residents, these are unlikely to explain away such major differences across countries. Besides nursing homes, some differential protection can be achieved even for the non-institutionalised elderly and this may result in substantially lower fatalities overall. Thus, Iceland and Denmark did have 20% and 35%, respectively, of the COVID-19 deaths occur in nursing homes, but they seem to have protected effectively their community-dwelling elderly; therefore, they have had low fatalities in the first wave…

Some countries may have had mixed patterns, for example, protecting somehow their elderly, but not specifically their institutionalised elderly, as in the case of the UK and probably also the USA where 44% of COVID-19 deaths occurred in the 0.59% of the population that resides in nursing homes. This pattern can still translate to heavy cumulative death toll. Institutionalised elderly are at much higher risk of death than other elderly people, and they can contribute a lion’s share to the overall death count.

He concludes:

The most-widely used metric for the success of interventions against COVID-19 to-date has been the number of infections. This metric alone is problematic because the vast majority of infections remain unrecorded and the documented infections depend on how many tests are done. A more informative metric of success is the ability of different interventions to generate a most favourable shielding ratio for the most high-risk subgroups of the population. These subgroups may account for the vast majority of the potential deaths and, if properly protected, many deaths can be avoided…

Precision approaches had received enthusiastic support before the COVID-19 era as a way to transform medicine and health at large… COVID-19 offers a situation where risk discrimination is far better than most previous efforts at materialising precision medicine. If the risk stratification offered by COVID-19 does not suffice for precision purposes, then it is unlikely that the concept of precision medicine can find fruitful applications with major impact across medicine (perhaps with the exception of some rare conditions). At a minimum, it is worth trying to make precision approaches work for COVID-19. Even modest shielding ratios may translate into hundreds of thousands or even millions of lives saved during the multiyear course of the pandemic

Worth reading in full.

SAGE Should Take a Look at the Decline in Infections in U.S. States with Few Restrictions

New York Times

There follows a guest post from Will Jones.

A number of American states have rejected stay-at-home lockdowns and other strong restrictions throughout the crisis, while a larger group, though locking down for a period in the spring, have eschewed them during the autumn and winter surge.

Here is a list of the US states which have remained largely open during the autumn and winter (e.g. no stay-at-home orders) along with the dates that their positive cases went into decline this winter. (Source: Worldometers)

  • Florida: Cases declining since January 12th
  • Georgia: Cases declining since January 14th
  • South Carolina: Cases declining since January 19th
  • Texas: Cases declining since January 16th
  • South Dakota: Cases declining since January 9th (main peak on November 17th)
  • Utah: Cases declining since January 10th
  • Nebraska: Cases declining since January 10th (main peak on November 20th)
  • Iowa: Cases declining since January 11th (main peak on November 13th)
  • Wyoming:  Cases declining since January 17th (main peak on November 23rd)
  • Arkansas: Cases declining since January 11th
  • North Dakota: Cases declining since November 18th

Note that all of these states saw infections starting to decline within ten days of each other in January. This is the same time that UK positive cases went into decline (January 10th).

When there is comparative data like this available for US states which declined to impose the restrictions being recommended in the UK and elsewhere, it is hard to understand how respectable scientists can continue to maintain that without lockdowns the NHS would be overwhelmed and deaths would skyrocket. Where is the requirement to test models against real-life evidence like this? 

I have a suggestion. Why don’t SAGE scientists apply their models to some of these places and see if they can accurately predict what will happen, and what has already happened?

There are numerous places which have declined to follow the lockdowners’ prescriptions. Time for the Government scientists to take a closer look and show how their models can match the outcomes that these places have experienced.

Stop Press: For more on the situation in the USA, see this report from France 24. The autumn-winter surge is most definitely easing, and the decline has given rise to a number of explanations, including the suggestion, made by Professor Jay Bhattacharya, among others, that the country is heading towards immunity.

Whatever Happened to the Flu?

Flu this winter seems to have all but disappeared. Sky News reports that “in the third week of January – usually a peak time for the flu – the number of flu-like illnesses reported to doctors was 0.9 per 100,000 people compared with a five-year average of 27”. This phenomenon is being chalked up to the beneficial effects of hand-washing, social distancing and indeed the lockdown. This could spell trouble down the road, enabling the authorities to argue that we ought to lockdown every winter to prevent flu deaths. Business Insider, reporting on the disappearance of flu, carries some interesting comments from various experts.

John McCauley, director of the World Health Organisation’s collaborating centre in London, told the Times that the collapse in numbers was “unprecedented”.

But while this might be good news overall, some scientists who are developing a vaccine for next year’s flu season are struggling because of the few samples they now have to work on. 

“It’s a nightmare to work out what comes next,” said McCauley. “If you have flu away for a year, then immunity will have waned. It could come back worse.”

Stop Press: A Freedom of Information request made to the ONS in August last year produced stats for combined influenza and pneumonia deaths, and COVID-19 deaths with no-pre-existing conditions, that, on the face of it, suggest about the same number of people died of influenza and pneumonia in England and Wales between March and June as died from COVID-19 but without any comorbidities.

How many influenza deaths have occurred in 2020?

As stated above, 2020 mortality data is still in a provisional state and not available in its entirety. We have provisional data available from March – June 2020 grouped for both ‘influenza and pneumonia’ in table 5 of Deaths involving COVID-19, England and Wales.

  • Influenza and pneumonia: England and Wales – 4582
  • Influenza and pneumonia: England – 4426
  • Influenza and pneumonia: Wales – 147 England and Wales – 4582

How many deaths from only COVID-19 have occurred (from the first known case to date)? This means where no other underlying condition was listed on the death certificate.

These figures can be found in table 5 of Deaths involving COVID-19, England and Wales.

  • No pre-existing condition: England and Wales – 4476
  • No pre-existing condition: England – 4169
  • No pre-existing condition: Wales – 294

A Rebuttal of Christopher Snowdon’s Critique of Dr Mike Yeadon

Today, we are highlight a new response to Christopher Snowdon’s Quillete piece in which he took various sceptics to task, including Dr Mike Yeadon. This one, by independent researcher Nicholas Lewis, mounts a robust defence of Dr Yeadon.

Christopher Snowdon makes some reasonable points in his January 16th article in Quillette “Rise of the Coronavirus Cranks”. However, he conflates cranks and rational sceptics, resulting in much of his critique being wide of the mark or plain wrong, and rational sceptics being unfairly tarred with the same brush as cranks. A response to Snowdon’s general argument has since been published elsewhere. However, it does not challenge the key quantitative criticism that Snowdon makes.

Snowdon asserts that claims by Mike Yeadon are “demonstrably nonsensical”. Specifically, he attacks Yeadon’s claim in an article written in Lockdown Sceptics in mid-September that the vast majority of Covid cases identified by Pillar 2 (testing in the community, England) since May 2020 had been false positives. Snowdon accepts the mathematics but challenges Yeadon’s assumptions regarding the true positive rate and the PCR test false positive rate, of 0.1% (the rate found by the Office of National Statistics) and 0.8% (the low end of a 0.8 – 4.0% false positive rate range stated in a report by Government scientists).

Snowdon wrote that Yeadon “did not draw the obvious conclusion that if the false positive rate of the PCR test was 0.8 percent, the ONS should find positives at least 0.8 percent of the time”. Snowdon may think that is an obvious conclusion, but unfortunately that just reveals his scientific and statistical ignorance. As I will show, what Snowdon thinks is an “obvious conclusion” is actually false.

Worth reading in full.

Poetry Corner

We have a new poem today, by the author and Lockdown Sceptics reader who calls herself Liberty Walker. This one inspired by a headline in the Telegraph about child’s play not being a form of exercise

Let Me Play

I’m just a child please let me play
I want to go outside today,
To run around and sing and shout,
Why won’t Boris let me out?

I used to play out in the street,
My friends and I we used to meet,
But now I sit and watch the screen,
My childhood is a tortured dream,

My stolen childhood must be restored,
These politicians should be ignored,
I need to play and socialise,
Not be kept indoors by fear and lies.

Round-up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Four today: “Fight For Liberty” by UVERworld, “Ticket to Ride” by the Beatles, “Who Knows Where The Time Goes” by Judy Collins and “There’s Gonna be a Showdown” by Archie Bell and the Drells.

Love in the Time of Covid

Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty as Bonnie and Clyde

We have created some Lockdown Sceptics Forums, including a dating forum called “Love in a Covid Climate” that has attracted a bit of attention. We 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, from the New York Post we bring you Biden’s push for equity at the expense of equality.

President Biden’s embrace of utter nonsense pushed by the “woke” continued with last week’s executive orders to “advance racial equity” and “root out systemic racism in housing and criminal justice”.

The “equity” approach assumes that any outcome that doesn’t meet inane racial quotas is the result of bias. It is, in fact, systematically racist.

The four executive orders Biden signed Tuesday don’t seem that earth-shattering. He directed the Department of Housing and Urban Development “to take steps necessary to redress racially discriminatory federal housing policies”, told the Justice Department to stop using private prisons, recommitted the feds to honouring tribal sovereignty and vowed to combat “racism, xenophobia and intolerance against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders”.

But, as the White House put it, his many “equity” orders set up “a whole-of-Government initiative to address racial equity and support underserved communities, and redress systemic racism in federal policies, laws and programs”. He’ll also require “all agencies to take affirmative steps to promote diversity, equity and inclusion”.

Notice that repeated word, “equity.” Liberals used to call (rightly) for equality of opportunity – to have every American treated the same way before the law. “Equity” demands equal outcomes. If some group of Americans is doing better than another, no matter the reason, Government must fix it.

Tellingly, Biden in announcing his orders actually corrected his own use of the “wrong” term: “I believe this nation and this Government need to change their whole approach to the issue of racial equal – equity.” 

Per the White House, Biden is bent on “embedding racial equity across his administration’s response to COVID-19 and the economic crisis”. That extends to de-facto quotas for small-business support – making federal aid depend on skin colour.

That’s un-American, but the White House said these steps are “just the start”.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Over in Spectator USA, Peter Wood says that President Joe Biden, high priest of the cult of woke, has effectively thrown the weight of the Presidency behind Critical Race Theory.

Stop Press 2: TEDxLondon has helpfully explained why it’s no longer using the term “women” and is now using “womxn” instead.

https://twitter.com/tedxlondon/status/1302221079893676034?s=21

“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: CTV news reports that infectious disease experts in Calgary aren’t very impressed by the new vogue for ‘double masking’.

Adding layers to a mask is not an added layer of protection.

According to Dr. John Conly, Medical Director of the Research and Innovation Centre at the Cumming School of Medicine, “double-masking” is unnecessary.

The trend of wearing multiple fabric masks simultaneously, or wearing a disposable mask beneath a cloth one, gained momentum on January 20th during the widely broadcast U.S. Presidential Inauguration…

On Friday Canadian medical leaders told CTV News there is little scientific evidence for double masking.

“Starting to double up on them begets a false sense of security, and you are also going to have issues with children under age five or the elderly, or those who are cognitively impaired. There’s going to be difficulties with starting to double and triple up masks,” said Dr. Conly.

“I don’t see any necessity for doing that whatsoever the science doesn’t tell us that’s necessary.”

Stop Press 2: Mask rules are also unpleasant for those being asked to enforce them. Birminghamlive has an account of the confrontations endured by staff at Birmingham hospitals tasked with ensuring visitors mask up.

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.

Stop Press: In a letter to the editor of the FMT, Carmelo Ferlito CEO of the Center for Market Education in Malaysia makes an economics-based argument for the approach recommended by the Great Barrington Declaration

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 was submitted 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…

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

Gavin Newsom did a good job, says the Babylon Bee. The one-stop shop for fake news you can trust has produced a nice little animation of him joyfully inviting the state of California to reopen. One assumes it will not be featuring in his 2022 re-election campaign.

Have Continuing Covid Restrictions in Schools Left Children Feeling Unfurnished, Permanently Waiting for the Upholsterer?

by Dr. Sinéad Murphy

Students spilling out of one of the large secondary schools in Newcastle are all wearing masks again. Evidently, that school at least has revived its requirement for masking, on account of rising ‘case’ numbers among teenagers in the city.

And worse: the BBC reported that on September 30th as many as 2.5% of those enrolled at English state schools were exiled from school altogether for reasons to do with Covid.

The ease with which schools are reverting to covering children’s faces and excluding those who ‘test positive for Covid’ (an entirely unscientific description) makes one wonder whether there is an affinity between our institutions of education and the masking and distancing of the Covid era.

Covid is not responsible for everything that it has exacerbated. Measures taken by schools against it have certainly diminished the personal and palpable content of children’s lives – people in masks might as well be anyone, and nothing on a screen offers much of sensory stimulation. But is neglect of the personal and palpable in fact a general principle of our schools? Is this what explains their complacent revival of masked and remote learning?

* * *

After one-and-a-half years of almost no school at all, our little boy with autism is now attending for three days in the week. We have two reasons for his reduced take-up.

First, the support teacher with whom Joseph has a good relationship, who knows him well and can communicate with him and cares about him, works at the school for three days every week, the same three days on which we are choosing to send him in.

Second, Joseph can only really learn from what is in the world, to be touched and smelt and tasted and heard and seen; the understanding that he gains during the two days in the week on which he accompanies me to the supermarket and the swimming pool, and makes shopping lists and kneads bread and goes to the door to pick up the mail, is not achieved by the most inventive of institutional strategies.

But in the meeting at Joseph’s school at which the new arrangement for his attendance was discussed, it was evident that the real justifications for it were not admissible.

Schools cannot allow that one teacher might be more appropriate than another – the ‘role’ is all, and anyone should be able to play it. And schools cannot accept that there is a possibility for involvement in the world that none of their representations of it and none of their simulations of it can ever hope to match for enlivenment of body and mind.

Last year, during the few weeks that Joseph could be at school, we kept him at home on days when his support teacher was unable to be there. It was made clear at the meeting that this personal arrangement would no longer be encouraged, that a new appointment was about to be made of a teacher trained in the support of children with special needs who would shadow Joseph’s teacher and be ready to step in for her in the event of absence.

And when I attempted to explain how quickly and well Joseph learns from moving about with purpose in the world, I was asked whether it would be possible for me to take Joseph to a museum or a gallery during our home-schooling days, as that would provide excellent documentary evidence that ‘off-site’ learning really was taking place.

So little do our schools place any value on the personal that a total stranger, with no understanding of Joseph’s idiosyncrasies and with no care for him at all, is judged as the equivalent of a woman who has known and liked him for three years.

And so little do our schools place any value on the palpable that the best substitute that they can find for themselves is another institution in which the experiences available are plucked from life and suspended in space and time for contemplation at a distance.

Small wonder that the masks are taken up so very easily when teaching and learning are not supposed to be personal anyway, and small wonder that everything switches to remote so very smoothly when the museum and the gallery are what count as the optimal ‘off-site’ learning environment.

* * *

But children with autism are a special case, we might think; their requirement for personal attention and palpable experience is part of their specific disability.

Is this true? Or is the intolerance of anonymity and of abstraction that defines autism in fact manifest in many who manage to pass muster at school and elsewhere?

Almost pass muster, at any rate. The NHS website includes descriptions of two conditions that are reported to be on the rise among young people in the U.K.: ‘depersonalisation’ and ‘derealisation’, which are disorders comprised of just that craving for the personal and the palpable that characterises those with a diagnosis of autism.

‘Depersonalisation’ and ‘derealisation’ are judged as ‘mental health’ issues, often subject to pharmaceutical treatments. But are they really ‘mental health’ issues, or are they entirely human responses of anxiety and disaffection in the face of ever-increasing anonymity and abstraction?

If they are such human responses, then schools’ active disregard for the personal and palpable is contributing significantly to their concerning increase, which increase must surely be partly responsible for the growing number of children being referred for diagnoses of autism.

The question arises, then, as to whether our schools are at least contributing to driving our children onto the ‘spectrum’?

It is a drastic allegation. But then, these are drastic times. And our children are coping with a drastic diminution of what may reasonably be regarded as the fundamentals of human life: the personal and the palpable, other people and the world.

* * *

It is an established philosophical theme: that human beings are irreducibly situated; that there is no baseline human life which is then overlain with circumstantial content; that human life is circumstanced all the way down.

Martin Heidegger summarized this view by defining human being as “Dasein” and “Mitsein” – being-there and being-with. What makes human life human, for Heidegger, is the dual fact of that life being always in a world with which our bodies are woven and always with others with whom our understanding is given and built up through interaction.

“Dasein” and “Mitsein” are abstract terms, as are ‘being-there’ and ‘being-with’. But what Heidegger intended to communicate with them was not so much that human life is in a world with others, but that our lives are in this world with these others. The claim is an existential one and not merely philosophical. Our human lives are personal, Heidegger meant. And our human world is palpable.

If Heidegger was right, then any erosion of the personal and the palpable is an erosion, not of the variety of life nor of the joy of life but of the humanness of life. For, to be human is to be there in a world that can be touched and tasted; and to be human is to be with people we know and understand and love.

Those who are not appalled at schools’ masking and distancing of children may assume that we can be with masked others and there in a remote world. Against this assumption, we can only appeal that it is less isolating even to be alone than it is to be surrounded by a sea of masked faces, and less awful even to be in a strange place than it is to be screened off and at a distance.

In favour of this appeal, we can point to the rise in diagnoses of ‘depersonalisation’ and ‘derealisation’ in our young people, together with the rise in their medication – prescriptions for anti-depressant medicines for those under 17 hit an all-time high during 2020, up 40% from five years before.

* * *

When Dickens’s Paul Dombey – pale and slight and destined to an early grave – first arrives at the boarding school to which his misguided father has sent him, he is left waiting in the study for someone to show him to his quarters. Weary and forlorn, with an aching void in his little heart, Paul is described as feeling as if he had taken life unfurnished and the upholsterer were never coming.

It is an affecting scene, of abandonment to a world without familiar sights and sounds and smells, peopled with strangers whose faces are not known.

I think that children with autism often feel like little Paul (who, as it happens, does not socialise normally with other children and is described by other characters as ‘old fashioned’). They feel as if life is bereft of what is really meaningful: of daily routines that are not to be departed from and that are entered into by all around; of familiar enduring objects; and of the faces of those whom they understand and who understand them. It is why they are drawn to small corners, why they clamber to sit behind you on your chair so as to be cushioned tightly between a warm person and a supporting world – one of Joseph’s very first words was ‘cozy’.

The responsibility of those of us who care for children with autism is to try to make them more cozy: to gather around them as much of meaning as we can; to furnish them with personal and palpable content; to establish routines and interact with objects and befriend people so as to thicken their being-there and being-with – to be the upholsterers of their lives.

But all children need what children with autism demand. All children feel ‘depersonalised’ when there are not people around them who really care, and all children feel ‘derealised’ when the world does not stimulate their senses. All children wish that the upholsterer would come.

Instead, what are we doing? We are doing the very opposite, stripping our children’s lives of what scanty furnishings remain to them. What people they have around, we are masking. What world there is left to touch and taste and smell, we are screening off. We are turning their young hearts into aching voids, with all outside so cold, and bare, and strange.

There is a medical experiment currently unfolding in schools, on account of which we ought to feel grave concern.

But there is an existential experiment unfolding there too, an experiment in removing the human content from the youngest human lives, as if they had taken childhood unfurnished and have no chance of cozy at all.

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

Response to Consultation document: Human Medicine Regulations

Introduction

Evidence has shown that Covid-19 is far from being “the biggest threat this country has faced in peacetime history”, although the statement may well be true of the government’s draconian, disproportionate and often illogical responses to it. Many highly-qualified experts in medical and scientific fields would dispute the assertion that the government “is working to a scientifically led, step-by-step action plan for tackling the pandemic”, particularly as the government’s handling of the disease remains based upon comprehensively discredited modelled outcomes produced by Prof. Neil Ferguson et al. Indeed, actual data shows that the pandemic has in fact ended as far as the UK and many other countries are concerned and that the “second wave” being threatened by the Minster for Health is extremely unlikely to happen1. The SARS-CoV2 virus has behaved similarly to other virus outbreaks and the patterns of spread and decline have been perfectly normal, with the overall outcome being on a par with a bad influenza season. One key difference though is that unlike influenza, SARS-CoV2 rarely causes serious illness to younger people without pre-existing health issues and should actually be easier to manage since vulnerable groups are more easily identified.

Given the above, it is evident that there is no current public health emergency due to SARS-CoV2, nor is there likely to be one in the near future. Any proposed changes to the Human Medicine Regulations should be viewed in this light.

Comments on specific proposals are set out below.

1. Temporary authorisation of the supply of unlicensed products

It is recognised that any vaccine (or other medicine) authorised for use should be both safe and effective; I would add a further requirement, which is that administration of any such medicine should also be necessary.

The high level of focus upon development of a vaccine for SARS-CoV2 and its perceived urgency creates a situation in which safety is likely to be compromised. Time and commercial pressures may lead to shortcuts in development, noting that typically a new vaccine would take 15 – 20 years to develop and license. In the drive to produce a marketable product, testing is likely to be compromised; there is a high probability of confirmation bias when reviewing results which may lead to the introduction of a product which is not as safe as it should be. Similar risks arise in determining the effectiveness of a proposed vaccine.

A further threat arises due to the government having made development and deployment of a vaccine the key to removal of constraints upon life and a return to some form of “normal”. This may lead to the standards of safety and effectiveness required to be demonstrated by the supplier of any potential vaccine against SARS-CoV2 being set lower than would normally be the case, simply in order to make quick procurement and use of a vaccine possible.

The risks are exacerbated by the fact that some of the potential vaccines under development make use of novel technologies which are unlike anything that has been used before, and therefore the longer term effects cannot be estimated or predicted in any meaningful or rational way. This potentially poses a major threat to the health of the public which could far exceed the impact of the SARS-CoV2 virus. Nobody can say that such a vaccine would be safe since there are no data on such products; any assessment of safety would thus be pure guesswork.

As noted, there is no current public health emergency due to the presence of SARS-CoV2 in the general population and treatments are available for such cases as may occur. There is therefore no necessity for the urgent deployment of a vaccine for the virus and in view of this and the risks to safety highlighted above there is no justification for authorising the use of an unlicensed vaccine.

2. Civil liability and immunity

Protection of vaccine developers, manufacturers and suppliers from civil liability exacerbates the risk of unsafe products being supplied and administered to the public, since there is no financial or other impact (except perhaps loss of sales in the longer term) to those organisations. Such liability must therefore fall to the government, creating an unquantifiable but potentially huge contingent liability. Given the lack of need for urgent vaccination of the public and the massive financial liabilities already incurred by the government through its response to SARS-CoV2, it is difficult to see any justification for creating this further liability.

In relation to Regulation 345(4) there is another risk, in that the definition of “defective” in the application of Part 1 of the Consumer Protection Act may be decided by the government in such a way as to protect the supplier from a liability which should properly fall to it.

For circumstances in which protection from liability may be lost, the consultation document seeks views upon who should perform the role of “objective bystander”. This ought not to be a person or organisation with vested interest in the subject, such as another pharmaceutical company (as suggested), but an independent organisation with relevant expertise, perhaps such as the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory.

3. Proposed expansion to the workforce eligible to administer vaccinations

No comments.

4. Vaccine promotion

The concept of advertising or otherwise promoting an unlicensed vaccine (or other medicine) raises questions of ethics since it is likely to give rise to a mistaken perception that the product is fully approved for use (i.e. licensed) and therefore safe. If advertisement or promotion were to be permitted then every such instance ought to carry a warning to the effect that the product has not been licensed and may therefore carry risks, and explain why it is being offered for use. That should at least cause potential recipients to consider carefully whether or not to accept the product and its associated risks.

5. Make provisions for wholesale dealing of vaccines

No comments.

Conclusion

Available scientific evidence shows that there is no current health emergency due to SARS-CoV2 and that there is thus no need to rush to deliver a vaccine, if indeed it proves possible to develop one since no-one has previously produced a successful vaccine against a coronavirus. Rushed development creates safety risks which in the case of novel vaccine technologies are incalculable. The primary objective must be to protect the health of the public, consistent with enabling normal life; this would best be achieved through the concept of “herd immunity”, which has been successfully demonstrated by Sweden.

1  “How likely is a second wave?” Paul Kirkham, Professor of cell Biology and Head of Respiratory Disease Research Group at Wolverhampton University; Dr Mike Yeadon, former CSO and VP, Allergy and Respiratory Research Head with Pfizer Global R&D and co-Founder of Ziarco Pharma Ltd; Barry Thomas, Epidemiologist

Latest News

Victory in Spite of the Tiers

Boris looks sheepishly at Graham Brady, like a teenager who’s just got in from an all-night party being told off by his dad

The post-lockdown tier system comes into force today after the Government won the parliamentary vote. Not the result that readers of Lockdown Sceptics would have wanted in an ideal world, but the vote was a damaging blow to the new tier system nevertheless.

  • Only 291 of 650 MPs voted for the Tier system, which means the new restrictions are being brought in without the backing of a majority of MPs. In such circumstances it’s going to be difficult to enforce them
  • The Labour party abstained. Admittedly, a bit spineless of Keir Starmer, but better than voting with the Government
  • 55 Tory MPs rebelled, up from 34 on November 4th and Boris’s biggest back bench rebellion to date
  • 15 Labour MPs voted against the measures. Sixteen if you count Jeremy Corbyn (independent)

For more on the fall-out for the Government, see this analysis by Camilla Tominey in the Telegraph.

Here is the list of MPs who voted “No” yesterday:

Conservative:

Adam Afriyie, Imran Ahmad Khan, Steve Baker (teller), Sir Graham Brady, Andrew Bridgen, Paul Bristow, Sir Christopher Chope, Greg Clark, James Daly, Philip Davies, David Davis, Jonathan Djanogly, Jackie Doyle-Price, Richard Drax, Sir Iain Duncan Smith, Mark Francois, Marcus Fysh, Dame Cheryl Gillian, Chris Green, Damian Green, Kate Griffiths, Mark Harper, Philip Hollobone, David Jones, Julian Knight, Robert Largan, Pauline Latham, Chris Loder, Tim Loughton, Craig Mackinlay, Anthony Mangnall, Karl McCartney, Stephen McPartland, Esther McVey, Huw Merriman, Robbie Moore, Anne Marie Morris, Sir Bob Neill, Mark Pawsey, Sir John Redwood, Mary Robinson, Andrew Rosindell, Henry Smith, Dr Ben Spencer, Sir Desmond Swayne, Sir Robert Syms (teller), Craig Tracey, Tom Tugendhat, Matt Vickers, Christian Wakeford, Sir Charles Walker, James Wallis, David Warburton, William Wragg, Jeremy Wright.

Labour:

Aspana Begum, Richard Burgon, Mary Kelly Foy, Andrew Gwynne, Mike Hill, Kevan Jones, Emma Lewell-Buck, Ian Mearns,
Grahame Morris, Kate Osborne, Bell Ribeiro-Addy, John Spellar, Graham Stringer, Zarah Sultana, Derek Twigg.

Democratic Unionist Party:

Gregory Campbell, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, Paul Girvan, Carla Lockhart, Ian Paisley Jr, Gavin Robinson, Jim Shannon, Sammy Wilson.

Independents:

Dr Julian Lewis, Jeremy Corbyn.

If you wrote to one of the above MPs, take a bow. And if you feel like thanking them, the standard Parliamentary email address format is firstname.secondname.mp@parliament.uk.

There were a number of note-worthy contributions to the debate in the lead up to the vote:

I very much want to support my Government and my Prime Minister in the lobby this evening, but I can’t and won’t inflict deliberate harm on my constituency unless I can see for myself that to do nothing would be worse.

Andrea Leadsom, Conservative (abstained)

Restrictions on much smaller areas work better, they are fairer, and they cause much less economic damage. The Government’s proposed tier system does not deliver this. I will therefore be voting against the government this evening.

David Davis, Conservative (No)

This is a dangerous moment in the life of our country. People feel they have been pushed too far and suffered too much. Government’s analysis should have compared its own approach with alternative approaches to show the costs & benefits.

Steve Baker, Conservative (Teller for the Noes)

Tonight I am voting against new Coronavirus tier restrictions. In the absence of a cost benefit analysis of lockdown, clarity about Trafford’s allocation to – and exit from – Tier 3 and sufficient justification for removal of fundamental freedoms, I have no choice but to oppose.

Graham Brady, Conservative (No)

And a special shout-out to William Wragg MP, who made Guido’s Quote of the Day:

There’s no conspiracy. In my brief experience of it, the British state has never been competent enough to mount or organise such a conspiracy, and indeed if it were so in the present climate plans for that would have leaked already.

William Wragg, Conservative (No)

Stop Press: One of the best speeches in the House of Commons yesterday was by Sir Graham Brady.

https://twitter.com/toadmeister/status/1333801494701768706

How to Fight Back, the Gandhi Way

Wondering what we can do, now that we’re facing the prospect of being in lockdown in all but name until Easter? Professor Ramesh Thakur, a former Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and a long-standing sceptic who’s written numerous articles attacking lockdowns, has a suggestion: take a leaf out of Gandhi’s book. As Professor Thakur points out, there is a considerable body of scholarship that shows nonviolent protest – civil disobedience – is more politically effective than violent protest, with the road to Indian independence being a case in point.

But Professor Thakur has a particular form of civil disobedience in mind, one perfected by Gandhi and still used in India to this day. Here’s the gist of it:

‘Jail Bharo Andolan’ is one technique of civil disobedience. It literally means ‘Fill the prisons movement/agitation’. It’s a deliberate, coordinated campaign to subvert a law or regime by courting arrest and imprisonment in numbers that physically clog the courts and overwhelm the prisons. The fact that those imprisoned are normally law-abiding citizens adds greatly to the authorities’ embarrassment…

So to those looking for what you can do: protest peacefully in large numbers, have several rungs of leaders to take the place of any who are arrested, be unfailingly polite and charmingly courteous to police officers and judges, refuse to pay fines in favour of court appearance and trial, and after the court has delivered its verdict go to prison rather than pay fines to overwhelm the prison system until the justice system breaks down.

It requires sacrifice, courage and steadfastness to refuse obedience to the dictates of a discredited and despised government. The dissenters must be prepared to accept the legal consequences, including imprisonment. But if you don’t fight for freedom, get ready to lose it.

We’ve given this one pride of place on the right-hand side, filed under “The Left-Wing Case Against Lockdowns”.

Worth reading in full.

Eggsactly!

From the Sun

There was another nearly-as-important debate yesterday on whether Scotch Eggs count as a “substantial meal”. The Sun has the details. Michael Gove, as they say, got himself “into a pickle”.

Michael Gove was asked about the status of the delicacy a day after his Cabinet colleague George Eustice told LBC that a Scotch egg “would count as a substantial meal if there were table service”. That means it could be be served with alcohol by pubs in tier two areas after lockdown ends.

Mr Gove told the radio station: “A couple of scotch eggs is a starter, as far as I’m concerned.”

Forty-five minutes later, he said on ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “As far as I’m concerned it’s probably a starter. My own preference when it comes to a substantial meal might be more than just a scotch egg but that’s because I’m a hearty trencherman. The Government is relying on people’s common sense.”

However, by the time he was interviewed by ITV News shortly afterwards, his position had evolved.

He said: “A Scotch egg is a substantial meal. I myself would definitely scoff a couple of Scotch eggs if I had the chance, but I do recognise that it is a substantial meal.”

A Day in the Life of a COVID-19 Physician

Getty images

The Critic magazine has another piece by the Covid Physician on the effect of lockdowns. It is an extensive and wide-ranging critique of how the virus has been handled, written by an NHS doctor. It starts with a tale of the effect on the treatment of a patient in need of specialised care:

Lockdown has dire, hidden consequences for unwell patients in general practice. Take for example the 34 year-old patient with motor neurone disease. English is a second language, she is an asylum seeker who thought she was escaping persecution and tyranny. In addition to the general muscular spasticity and weakness which will eventually lead to a slow death by respiratory failure she has a progressive bulbar palsy which means she can no longer speak nor swallow well. These will worsen. Each morning she risks a death by choking on her puréed breakfast. A feeding tube has been proposed, but she pretends to her specialist it hasn’t been. She is on medicines that sedate her. She can barely handle a mobile phone. Let us say life is already a multiple misery.

COVID-19 has brought her a special new hell. Carers avoid her due to the vulnerability her medical conditions bring to her. Speech and language therapists (SALTs) avoid her and make-believe care through Microsoft Teams. To make this virtual dystopia impressive and even better than the real thing they have given it an incredible name: The SALT proudly states: “Consultation done with AAC meeting”. What is that? I keep reading. My goodness, another Fourth Industrial revolution thing? Augmentative and Alternative Communication. To me, a simple video-call is demoralising doublespeak, for non-existent care by proxy.

My patient’s neurologist does the same: multi-conferencing the locked-down patient as she slowly rots in her asylum accommodation amidst a cold, bleak post-industrial pseudo-apocalypse. A pathetic dripping roast for everyone to make even easier money off. It occurs to me that the dehumanising, forced-impoverishment and restrictions of my refugee and asylum patient group is now upon us all, meagre social credits, not allowed to work, restricted movement, restricted access to healthcare. We are all in the same lockdown boat, now.

It concludes with an excoriation of Johnson, Whitty, Vallance et al, who worry the author far more than COVID-19:

The Prime Minister is fond of saying he is following the science. He is not. He is absolving himself of command, control and blame by saying so. He may also be too classically-educated to appreciate he is not following the science with lockdown, masks and social-distancing. He is ensconced in an echo-chamber following a narrow body of nominal rubber-stamping medics, scientists and mathematicians without the correct skill sets, incentive nor personality traits to think outside of the box. They are the ones who ruthlessly rise to the top and become the best government mandarins in Whitehall. Ambitious, ladder-climbing, back-stabbing Et tu Brute? sociopaths in the image of their Caesar.

While they do politics, we are suffering and dying in their Yes Minister tragifarce for real. They could lock us up forever based upon their over-reactive criteria. Johnson, Whitty, Vallance, Hancock, and SAGE worry me more than COVID-19 and are far more dangerous to the UK. They have infantilised medicine. What would they do to us if a truly awesome contagion were to turn up?

Professors Hancock and Whitty have erased another fundamental medical principle from medicine: Primum Non Nocere: first do no harm.

Worth reading in full.

Dr Wodarg and Dr Yeadon Call for Halt to COVID-19 Vaccine Studies

Credit: Oldschool3d/Shutterstock

Lockdown Sceptics contributor Mike Yeadon, and Dr Wolfgang Wodarg, a German physician and epidemiologist, have filed an application with the European Medicine Agency – the organisation responsible for EU drug approval – for the immediate suspension of COVID-19 vaccine studies and the BioNtech/Pfizer study in particular. More from 2020 News

Dr Wodarg and Dr Yeadon are demanding that the studies, for the protection of the life and health of the volunteers, should not be continued until a study design is available that is suitable to address the significant safety concerns expressed by an increasing number of renowned scientists against the vaccine and the study design.

The petitioners demand that, due to the known lack of accuracy of the PCR test in a serious study, a so-called Sanger sequencing must be used. This is the only way to make reliable statements on the effectiveness of a vaccine against COVID-19. On the basis of the many different PCR tests of highly varying quality, neither the risk of disease nor a possible vaccine benefit can be determined with the necessary certainty, which is why testing the vaccine on humans is unethical.

They are also demanding that the risks already known from previous studies can be excluded. Their concerns are directed on four points in particular:

– The formation of so-called “non-neutralizing antibodies” can lead to an exaggerated immune reaction, especially when the test person is confronted with the real, “wild” virus after vaccination. 

– The vaccinations are expected to produce antibodies against spike proteins of SARS-CoV-2. However, spike proteins also contain syncytin-homologous proteins, which are essential for the formation of the placenta in mammals such as humans. It must be ruled out that a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 could trigger an immune reaction against syncytin-1, as it may otherwise result in infertility of indefinite duration in vaccinated women.

– The mRNA vaccines from BioNTech/Pfizer contain polyethylene glycol (PEG). 70% of people develop antibodies against this substance. This means that many people can develop allergic, potentially fatal reactions to the vaccination.

– The much too short duration of the study does not allow a realistic estimation of the late effects. As in the narcolepsy cases after the swine flu vaccination, millions of healthy people would be exposed to an unacceptable risk if an emergency approval were to be granted and the possibility of observing the late effects of the vaccination were to follow.

EU citizens are encouraged to sign the petition by sending the email prepared here to the EMA.

The Call for Volunteer Vaccinators

Source: iStock

Meanwhile, a couple of readers have been in touch about the call for volunteer vaccinators. One had been sent a solicitation because he’d signed up as an NHS volunteer responder, the other a similar flyer by St John Ambulance. The St John Ambulance volunteers’ tasks include:

  • Administering the COVID-19 vaccine to patients
  • Recognising and responding as needed to any medical emergency. This may include helping a patient with their breathing if they have an allergic reaction to the vaccine
  • Working with other St John and NHS colleagues to deliver a vaccination service including escalating problems outside your scope of training to an appropriate person

In order to apply, volunteers must:

  • Have at least two A-levels or the equivalent during their education
  • Have experience of a paid or voluntary role caring for people, providing customer service or providing signposting and advice
  • Understand that they will need to handle needles and potentially deal with blood and other bodily fluids
  • Be able to follow instructions as given by clinical professionals and act on own initiative within the scope of training

You can sign up here. Our reader is signing up:

Out of interest, to see what happens, I’m signing up… (At the moment, as you can see, they’re requiring two A-levels as a minimum, but I assume that the orders from on high will be to have cats and monkeys stabbing the population if that’s what it takes to create some rungs down the ladder). 

We look forward to hearing all about it.

The advert does say that volunteers will undergo:

Extensive training with a pass/fail assessment, and be subject to assessments (observed vaccinations) and clinical supervision at each of the vaccination sites by a health care professional to ensure the safety of patients and that of the volunteers.  

A good, reliable, proven vaccine would be good news, but people are entitled to require evidence that a new vaccine is indeed reliable and unlikely to have any nasty side effects. See Desmond Swayne’s challenge to Ministers in the House of Commons Yesterday: “You have the Vaccine First

Long Lockdown and Human Rights: A Call for Evidence

The House of Commons Joint Committee on Human Rights has issued an open call for evidence. It is considering “the impact of lockdown restrictions on human rights and whether those measures only interfere with human rights to the extent that is necessary and proportionate”. In particular, it’s seeking views on:

The impact of lockdown on university students. Have interferences with students’ right to liberty and right to private and family life been proportionate? Have the fixed penalty notices issued to students been proportionate?

The impact of lockdown on the freedom of religion and belief, and in particular on collective worship. Have interferences with the freedom of religion and belief been proportionate?

Care Home and Hospital Visits. Has current Government guidance struck the correct balance between the right to private and family life and the right to life? Is it being applied fairly and consistently in practice?

The human rights impacts of extended lockdown restrictions on those areas subjected to the most stringent, lasting, lockdown conditions. What have been the human rights impacts on family life and mental health for those communities? Are there ways that these rights might be better addressed?

Policing of Lockdown. Is the use of Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) for lockdown offences proportionate, fair and non-discriminatory? Is it clear why FPNs have been issued and are there adequate ways to seek a review or appeal of an FPN? Are the amounts of FPN fines proportionate? Has there been a disproportionate impact on certain groups?

The right to protest and lockdown. How have lockdown restrictions affected the right to protest? Has the correct balance been struck?

Submit your evidence here by January 11th. It is open to anyone. All evidence is published and can be anonymised on request.

Julia Hartley Brewer Eviscerated Colonel Bob Stewart MP

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JcpYUiZZHC0

Colonel Bob Stewart MP appeared on Julia Hartley Brewer’s talkRADIO show yesterday and told her he intended to vote “yes” later that day because he’d spoken to Boris and Boris told him he was following the science.

Light blue touch paper and stand well back…

Pageview Update

Lockdown Sceptics got 1,594,371 pageviews during the month of November. Not too shabby.

Round-up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Five today: “Find the Cost of Freedom” by Gilmour, Crosby and Nash, “Kick Out The Tories” by Newtown Neurotics, “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)” by Beastie Boys, “The Deceiver” by The Alarm, “Hurry up Harry” by Sham 69.

Love in the Time of Covid

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

Sharing Stories

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

Social Media Accounts

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

Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, Nasdaq’s push for diversity on the boards of its companies. From the Financial Times:

Companies listed on Nasdaq should have at least two “diverse” board directors under new rules proposed by the exchange on Tuesday, in a potentially significant expansion of a global movement to force companies to shed white, male leadership teams.

In a filing on Tuesday with the US stock market regulator, Nasdaq also proposed listing rules that would require companies to disclose consistent diversity statistics for board directors and set a standard for companies to have two diverse directors – including one who self-identifies as female and one who self-identifies as an under-represented minority or lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer…

Companies that do not comply will have to explain why not. There will also be some flexibility for foreign groups and small organisations which can satisfy the diversity standard with two female directors.

The proposed listing changes were driven in part by increasing demands from investors for board diversity data, said Nelson Griggs, President of the Nasdaq Stock. He also said that the global demonstrations for racial equality this year had played a role.

Additionally, Nasdaq said that its proposal was “designed to reduce the groupthink” that can occur with homogenous boards, and to prevent “fraudulent and manipulative acts and practices”.

Reduce the groupthink?!? You couldn’t make it up.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Coleman Hughes has written a piece for City Journal about White Fragility, the best-selling book by Robin DiAngelo. He isn’t impressed.

White Fragility spends considerable time telling white people that they’re racist, but with a crucial twist: it’s not their fault. “A racism-free upbringing is not possible,” she writes, “because racism is a social system embedded in the culture and its institutions. We are born into this system and have no say in whether we will be affected by it.” For author DiAngelo, white supremacy is like the English language. If you’re born in America, you learn it without trying. Racism, in her view, transforms from a shameful sin to be avoided into a guiltless birthmark to be acknowledged and accepted.

An unstated assumption in White Fragility, and this is where the book borders on actual racism, is that black people are emotionally immature and essentially child-like. Blacks, as portrayed in DiAngelo’s writing, can neither be expected to show maturity during disagreement nor to exercise emotional self-control of any kind. The hidden premise of the book is that blacks, not whites, are too fragile.

The piece is a splendid attack by a brilliant young African-American intellectual on a canonical text in the woke movement.

Worth reading in full.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

We’ve created a one-stop shop down here for people who want to buy (or make) a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and it has the advantage of not explicitly claiming you have a disability. But if you have no qualms about that (or you are disabled), you can buy a lanyard from Amazon saying you do have a disability/medical exemption here (takes a while to arrive). The Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. You can get a “Hidden Disability” tag from ebay here and an “exempt” card with lanyard for just £1.99 from Etsy here. And, finally, if you feel obliged to wear a mask but want to signal your disapproval of having to do so, you can get a “sexy world” mask with the Swedish flag on it here.

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

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

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.

Stop Press: The Netherlands has succumbed to mask-ism. The country has just made it compulsory, as of yesterday, to wear a face mask in indoor public spaces. The rule will apply to those over the age of 13 in public buildings, including shops, railway stations and hairdressers. It is one of the last countries in Europe to introduce such a measure. The BBC has the details.

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 last month 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 700,000 signatures.

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

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

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

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

Judicial Reviews Against the Government

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

First, there’s the Simon Dolan case. You can see all the latest updates and contribute to that cause here.

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

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

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

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

And last but not least there’s the Free Speech Union‘s challenge to Ofcom over its ‘coronavirus guidance’. You can read about that and make a donation here.

Stop Press: The Court of Appeal handed down its judgement on Simon Dolan’s case yesterday, ruling that the Government should not face a Judicial Review into the first tranche of lockdown measures. Simon is now planning to take the case to the supreme court. He said:

The Lord Chief Justice, Lady Justice King and Lord Justice Singh have decided that the Government should not face a full Judicial Review of its actions in imposing the lockdown measures on us all between March 26th and July 2nd.

We did score one important victory. The three judges allowed an important ground of the appeal which concerned the legal powers of Ministers to make the lockdown regulations using the Public Health (Control of Infectious Disease) Act 1984. We argued that they had acted “ultra vires” by using this legislation and that, as a result, the lockdown restrictions imposed by the Government were illegal. The Court of Appeal accepted that it was in the public interest for the appeal to be allowed on this important legal point. In doing so, they overturned Mr Justice Lewis’s ruling back in July that this point was unarguable.

Unusually, having allowed the appeal on the ultra vires point, the Court decided to make a final, substantive ruling on the substance of the issue itself – rather than send it back to the High Court. Unfortunately, however, having considered it, the Court of Appeal held against us. It has ruled that on the wording of the 1984 statute, the Government does have the power to impose measures against the whole population as it has been doing.

We still disagree strongly and the fight will go on. We can and will seek permission to appeal the ultra vires point to the Supreme Court.

You can read the full update and make a contribution to Simon’s fundraiser here. MailOnline also has a good summary.

Samaritans

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

Quotation Corner

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

Alexander Solschenizyn

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

Mark Twain

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

Charles Mackay

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

Benjamin Franklin

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

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

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

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

Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury

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

Sir Winston Churchill

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

Richard Feynman

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

C.S. Lewis

The welfare of humanity is always the alibi of tyrants.

Albert Camus

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

Carl Sagan

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

George Orwell

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

Marcus Aurelius

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

William Pitt the Younger

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…

Morten Morland’s cartoon in yesterday’s Times

Latest News

Here We Go Again…

Matt Hancock raised the alarm in Parliament yesterday when he said a new variant of Coronavirus was doing the rounds and linked this to the rise in community infections in Kent and London. The press release from Public Health England has the details.

The strain was identified due to Public Health England’s proactive and enhanced monitoring following the increase in cases seen in Kent and London. The variant has been named ‘VUI – 202012/01’ (the first Variant Under Investigation in December 2020).

As of December 13th, 1,108 cases with this variant have been identified, predominantly in the South and East of England. PHE is working with partners to investigate and plans to share its findings over the next two weeks. There is currently no evidence to suggest that the strain has any impact on disease severity, antibody response or vaccine efficacy.

High numbers of cases of the variant virus have been observed in some areas where there is also a high incidence of COVID-19. It is not yet known whether the variant is responsible for these increased numbers of cases. PHE will monitor the impact of this in the coming days and weeks.

It is not uncommon for viruses to undergo mutations; seasonal influenza mutates every year. Variants of SARS-CoV-2 have been observed in other countries, such as Spain.

This variant includes a mutation in the ‘spike’ protein. Changes in this part of the spike protein may result in the virus becoming more infectious and spreading more easily between people.

A paper in Nature by François Balloux among others provides some helpful context. He pointed out in a Twitter thread that he and his team had identified 12,000 variants/mutations, none of which increased transmission or led to more severe infections.

https://twitter.com/BallouxFrancois/status/1338536796075020290

At the Number 10 press briefing that followed Matt Hancock’s announcement, Chris Whitty played down potential fears concerning the new variant, as Ross Clark reports in the Spectator:

Mutations are only to be expected, he said, and many have already emerged. It isn’t clear, he added, whether the new variant is more transmissible than previous ones… There is no evidence, he said, that the new variant is more dangerous to humans than previous versions, and no reason to suspect that this would be the case… Nor, said Whitty, is there any reason to imagine that the new variant will be any more resistant to the Pfizer vaccine or any other vaccine, too few people have yet been given the vaccine for the virus to start developing its own immunity to the vaccine. 

The sudden appearance of a variant/mutation – LonKent-20? – along with the rising numbers of reported cases has led to speculation about whether we’ll still give five days off over Christmas. Whitty reminded us that “the fact that some relaxations are being made not to the tiering but to people’s ability to meet their families over Christmas does not mean that they should go to the top of the licence of that. The point of this is, under certain circumstances, for families who wish to, to get together, but they really have to be very very careful”. Hancock said:

On the modelling around Christmas, it all depends on people’s behaviour and the most important thing is that people are cautious and careful ahead of Christmas and during Christmas and hence why we’re saying that so clearly.

Back to Ross Clark in the Spectator:

Should we worry about the emergence of a new variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19? As I wrote in May, the SARS-CoV-2 virus has already mutated once into a form that might be more transmissible. This could possibly explain why Europe and North America have found it harder to contain the virus than have Asian countries. Were we fighting a slightly different disease to the one which emerged in Wuhan in January? 

In a recent survey of 46,723 people with COVID-19 from 99 countries, researchers identified more than 12,700 mutations. “None of these mutations are making COVID-19 spread more rapidly,” according to Lucy van Dorp, a professor at University College London’s Genetics Institute and one of the co-lead researchers on the study.

But what today’s news has done, in particular the decision to shift the capital into a higher tier, is to change the mood. From a picture of declining infections in late November and early December, we are heading back, once more, into a period of tighter restrictions. 

Once again, as throughout this crisis, questions at this evening’s briefing focused on whether tighter lockdowns would be imposed. This time, there were also repeated questions on whether the relaxation of rules on households mixing over Christmas ought now to be revisited. Given that Germany and other countries have started imposing lockdowns across Christmas, I give it until about Thursday until Boris is back at the lectern announcing that, regrettably, it is going to be necessary to cancel Granny’s visit.

Ross Clark’s piece is worth reading in full.

London Placed in Tier 3

Captain Scapegoat, the Secretary of State for Bad News

The other big story yesterday was that London will be placed in Tier 3 at one minute after midnight on Wednesday morning, along with south and west Essex, and south Hertfordshire. The move means that 34 million people – 61% of the English population – will be living under the highest level of COVID-19 restrictions. It was significant that this was announced by Matt Hancock, not “too busy with Brussels” Boris, presumably because it was such bad news and Boris wanted to avoid the blame. From Hancock’s statement:

Sadly, the news on the spread of the virus is not good. The latest number of cases of coronavirus is rising once more. We’ve seen an increase of 14% in the last week and the number of patients admitted to hospital across the UK has risen again too.

The average number of new cases reported each day is 18,023 which is up on last week. Today, there are 16,531 COVID-19 patients in hospitals across the UK, which is also up. And sadly, on average each day over the past week 420 deaths have been reported

Once again, the spread of this disease is not even across the country. There have been sharp rises in South Wales, London, Kent, Essex and parts of the East and South East of England. In some areas, the doubling time is now seven days. This rise is amongst people of all age groups, not just school-age children.

I’m particularly concerned by the rising rates amongst the over-60s and the number of people in hospital, which is also rising. That’s even before we factor in the increases in last week’s rates. And we know through painful experience: more cases lead to more hospitalisations and sadly, more deaths.

At this point it is worth turning to Tim Spector, the founder of the ZOE App.

First, he was asked on Twitter whether the rate of infection is increasing:

https://twitter.com/DobbyJames1/status/1338587817409196035?s=20

And his reply:

https://twitter.com/timspector/status/1338590651240374273

Secondly, what does the ZOE App tell us about the rising rates among the over-60s?

Image

When Hancock referred to “rising rates amongst the over-60s”, perhaps he meant the rising number of over-60s in hospitals and care homes becoming infected, even though infections among the entire population of over-60s appears to be falling. Tim was asked about this on Twitter and said:

https://twitter.com/timspector/status/1338549057615241216

If Tim Spector is right, it points to a problem in hospitals and care homes, i.e. nosocomial infection. It is hard to see how it can be fixed by closing bars and restaurants, and at such short notice that Hancock jumped the gun and announced the new restrictions two days ahead of the “review” scheduled for Wednesday.

To get an idea of what Tier 3 means for the hospitality trade, it’s also worth turning to a recent story in the Manchester Evening News.

Simon Delaney has worked in the pub industry for 30 years. Now he fears his venues won’t make it through to the new year, and believes the coronavirus restrictions placed on the hospitality industry could signal the end for the great British pub.

Simon, who also runs the Little Bee in Sale, has even won awards for his pub’s ability to connect people, including best community pub in Great Britain, the Spirit of Manchester and the Pride of Manchester. But, since the beginning of the pandemic, his local community have been left without the support of one its most cherished institutions. And, now that Greater Manchester is in Tier 3, Simon fears his pub won’t survive past Christmas.

Simon worries that even if the region is moved down to Tier 2, many of his local punters don’t have the income to support buying a ‘substantial meal’ every time they want a drink. And the lack of support for the hospitality industry, he claims, could signal the end for what he describes as the great British pub.

“With the first lockdown everything was okay – we had the furlough and there were grants, loans, and all kinds of support,” Simon said.

“After that, when the new restrictions came in with the curfew and the substantial meal it all just went downhill. When we went into this second lockdown we thought it’s okay, it will only be a couple of weeks, but then we have come out and we are still in lockdown here.”

Over the last five years, Simon, who drank his first ever pint in the Firbank and grew up locally, has repeatedly beaten the odds to keep the pub open. A drug dealer demanded £5,000 from Simon to “make it stop”, before ending up being prosecuted for blackmail. Simon has also fought back from a brain haemorrhage to turn the Firbank into an award-winning pub which employs local people.

Whilst Simon’s staff are on furlough pay, he and his wife Rachel are not receiving an income, and cannot apply for any extra support.

“Tier 3 and Tier 2 is going to be the death of the great British pub. We have already got a situation where people are leaving the industry, and they won’t come back.

“For me this is a lifestyle not a job, but now we are both having to look at taking other employment. It has left me and my wife in tears seeing what is happening to this industry. There aren’t many community centres left in Wythenshawe and that has become the role of the pub. If the pub isn’t here, who will it be?”

Worth reading in full.

Is the Rise in Community Infections an Artefact of Increased Testing and False Positives?

The apparent rise in infections that has prompted moving London into Tier 3 may be due to our old friend the false positive rate of the PCR test. Today, we’re publishing a piece describing in fairly simply language how the test works and why false positives are such a problem. It’s by an eminent research scientist who has a PhD in microbial pathogenicity and has been using RT-PCR for over 30 years. Here’s an extract:

The amazing sensitivity of methods based on PCR is both their exoneration and their potential downfall. Each PCR cycle doubles the amount of material, which may not sound impressive, but it really is. To illustrate this, imagine you were perched on top of the Big Ben tower (96 metres up) and it doubled in length every second. Within 22 seconds (22 doublings), you would be travelling at the speed of light (leaving aside Special Relativity). So if something goes wrong in the PCR, you quickly amplify an aberrant result to staggering proportions.

After outlining the various ways in which the PCR test can generate false positive, he reaches his sobering conclusion.

This is a technical summary stripped of as much jargon as possible. As it relates to COVID-19, it doesn’t cover so-called ‘cold’ positives, in which virus RNA (including RNA fragments) is present in samples that do not contain viable or infectious virus and yet may still may give a positive signal. But it should highlight that although qRT-PCR is immensely powerful in research, its potential pitfalls require punctilious safeguards. In research, each experiment is performed with independent samples on at least two occasions – a minimal requirement for publication by respected journals. Interpreting both positive and negative qRT-PCR results requires experience that is most abundant among molecular biologists working on eukaryotic systems, and one wonders to what extent they have been called upon to advise on COVID-19 testing. There are few technical grounds on which to be confident that qRT-PCR is readily scalable, but doubts about its clinical application could be met squarely, whilst respecting patient anonymity, by complete, contemporaneous and auditable transparency.

This is a great explanation from a scientist who knows everything there is to know about this incredibly complex diagnostic tool.

Worth reading in full.

WHO chief Tedros Ghebreyseus Accused of Aiding Genocide

Tedros Ghebreyseus, Director General of the World Health Organisation, stands accused of aiding genocide during his time as a Government Minister in Ethiopia. MailOnline has the story:  

American economist David Steinman has accused WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, 55, of aiding genocide in Ethiopia. He accused Tedros of being one of three officials who were in charge of the security services over that period, during which the “killing” and “torturing” of Ethiopians took place. 

Tedros was the country’s foreign minister until 2016 when his Tigray People’s Liberation Front party was in power. Raised in Tigray, he also served as Ethiopia’s health minister from 2005 to 2012 before being elected WHO director-general in 2017, the first African to take the role.

Mr Steinman, who was nominated for the 2019 Nobel peace prize, lodged the complaint calling for Tedros to be prosecuted for genocide at the International Criminal Court in the Hague. He claimed that Tedros “was a crucial decision maker in relation to security service actions that included killing, arbitrarily detaining and torturing Ethiopians”.

Mr Steinman also alleged that the WHO chief oversaw the “killing, and causing serious bodily and mental harm to, members of the Amhara, Konso, Oromo and Somali tribes with intent to destroy those tribes in whole or in part”. He claimed that while Tedros “co-led” Ethiopia’s Government for four years, the regime “was marked by widespread or systematic crimes against humanity by subordinates”.

In the filed complaint, Mr Steinman referenced a 2016 US Government report on human rights in Ethiopia that found the “civilian authorities at times did not maintain control over the security forces, and local police in rural areas and local militias sometimes acted independently”.

Mr Steinman, a former consulting expert to the US National Security Council, accused Tedros of being involved in the “intimidation of opposition candidates and supporters” which included “arbitrary arrest… and lengthy pre-trial detention”.  

The complaint can only proceed to the Hague court if it is adopted by prosecutors. It would be the first prosecution of a senior UN figure if it does proceed.   

Tedros has denied the allegations and any wrongdoing. 

Worth reading in full.

Covert Strategies – A Letter to the British Psychological Society

The compliant attitude of the British public to the Government’s heavy-heavy handed restrictions – the lockdowns, mask-wearing, travel restrictions, and so on – has been a notable feature of the COVID-19 crisis. Dr Gary Sidley, a Lockdown Sceptics reader and a psychologist, says that this has much to do with the fear engendered by the psychologists employed in the Behavioural Insights Team. Their approach to terrifying the public is based on the acronym MINDSPACE, according to Dr Sidley, which he summed up in a blogpost here. In brief:

  • MESSENGER – We are influenced by the source of the information
  • INCENTIVES – We employ predictable shortcuts such as strongly avoiding losses
  • NORMS – We are strongly influenced by what others do
  • DEFAULTS – We ‘go with the flow’ of pre-set options
  • SALIENCE – Our attention is drawn to what is novel and seems personally relevant
  • PRIMING – Our acts are often influenced by subconscious cues
  • AFFECT – Our emotions powerfully shape our actions
  • COMMITMENTS – We seek to be consistent with our public promises
  • EGO – We act in ways that make us feel better about ourselves

He has written a letter to British Psychological Society highlighting the ethical implications of the strategy, which believes may constitute a breach of psychologists’ professional code of ethics:

A comprehensive account of the psychological approaches deployed by the Behavioural Insight Team (BIT) is provided in the document, “MINDSPACE: Influencing behaviour through public policy” (available here). The authors describe how their behavioural strategies provide “low cost, low pain ways of ‘nudging’ citizens… into new ways of acting by going with the grain of how we think and act

Many of the nudges developed and put forward by the BIT psychologists are, to various degrees, acting upon us automatically, below the level of conscious thought and reason. Although we accept there may be legitimate reasons for utilising covert psychological strategies within our communities, perhaps as a marketing tool to shape opinion about a consumer product or as part of, for example, Government campaigns to discourage vandalism or to prevent young men stabbing each other, in the sphere of individual health decisions we believe transparency is required.

In order to inform and direct the Government’s communication strategy aimed at achieving the public’s compliance with COVID-19 restrictions, it is apparent that the BIT psychologists have promoted a range of covert psychological interventions. For example, our inherent need to preserve a positive self-image has been exploited by the incessant slogans and mantras insisting that compliance with the Government’s coronavirus diktats is akin to the altruism of helping others, a focus on ‘ego’, to use the MINDSPACE terminology. Another example has been the use of peer pressure (‘norms’) on the non-compliers by casting these supposed miscreants in the uncomfortable bracket of a deviant minority. But the most potent, and most ethically dubious, strategy has been the inflation of fear (‘affect’) as a means of coercing people into obedience.

The decision to inflate the levels of fear among the British public was a strategic one, as indicated by the minutes of the SAGE meeting of March 22nd, 2020. Clearly, the BIT psychologists recommended scaring people as an effective way of maximising compliance with the coronavirus restrictions. Consequently, the general population has had to endure a media onslaught primarily aimed at inflating perceived threat levels that has included: the daily announcement of coronavirus-death statistics, displayed without context; repeated footage of people dying in Intensive Care Units; scary slogans and the promotion of face coverings, a potent symbol of danger, despite there being little evidence for their effectiveness in reducing viral spread.

The authors of MINDSPACE recognised the significant ethical dilemmas arising from the use of influencing strategies that impact subconsciously on the country’s citizens. They acknowledged that the deployment of covert methods to change behaviour “has implications for consent and freedom of choice” and offers people “little opportunity to opt out”. Furthermore, it is conceded that “policymakers wishing to use these tools… need the approval of the public to do so”. So have the British people been consulted about whether they agree to Government using covert psychological techniques to promote compliance with contentious public health policies? We suspect not. It seems the BIT psychologists are operating in ethically murky waters in implementing their nudges, without our consent, to promote mass acceptance of infringements on basic human freedoms.

In the British Psychological Society Code of Ethics & Conduct one of the ‘Statement of Values’ is: “Psychologists value the dignity and worth of all persons, with sensitivity to the dynamics of perceived authority or influence over persons and peoples and with particular regard to people’s rights. In applying these values, Psychologists should consider consent and self-determination.

We believe that the BIT psychologists, in their deployment of covert strategies to achieve compliance with unprecedented lockdowns, travel restrictions and mask mandates, have blatantly failed to practice in a way that is consistent with the ethics of the British Psychological Society.

Worth reading in full.

Dr Gary Sidley, is looking for co-signatories. If you are UK based psychologist or therapist and would like to support the letter, do get in touch with him by email or on twitter.

Wetherspoons Strikes Back

A branch of Spoons down in Faversham caused a bit of stir yesterday after putting up some posters in one of its windows. KentOnline has the story:

Pub chain giant Wetherspoon has been branded “socially irresponsible” for displaying anti-lockdown messages from its newsletter in the window of one of its outlets. The move has angered a town councillor who says the posters “play down” the seriousness of the infection when Swale is suffering especially high numbers of cases.

Cllr Hannah Perkin spotted the newsletter pages posted in the window of the Leading Light Wetherspoon in Faversham today and posted her anger on Twitter. “This is especially dangerous in Swale where we have some of the highest rates in the country,” she wrote. “This is socially irresponsible and not the way out of Tier 3. Speaking to KentOnline, she said: “Swale’s rates are still quite high and I think its concerning when public health experts are telling us that we really should be abiding with Government guidelines.”

The subversive pages come from the latest edition of the Wetherspoon News, which focusses on COVID-19 and features among others, Lord Jonathan Sumption, Dr Johan Giesecke and Dr Mike Yeadon. The online edition is available here, but look out for 120-page edition of the print magazine which should be available in your local Spoons and would make a good accompaniment to a substantial meal.

Documentary About Sweden

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UdbpmDN5v5E&feature=youtu.be

Lockdown Sceptics reader Sean Spencer went to Stockholm in August to make a zero budget documentary with BAFTA nominated filmmaker Claudia Nye about the Swedish approach to Coronavirus. They were so impressed by Anders Tegnell’s steely determination under intense scrutiny and worldwide pressure, they arranged an interview with him and produced a film about Sweden’s unique approach to managing the virus.

Sean has posted a couple of clips on YouTube: How novel is COVID-19, and is population density one reason the Swedish approach seems to have largely worked?

Both worth checking out.

Free Speech Union Vows to Take Will Knowland Fight to Parliament

Alas, Will Knowland has failed to overturn his dismissal on appeal. Will is the Eton teacher – and Free Speech Union member – who was sacked for refusing to delete his video-lecture challenging radical feminist orthodoxy. The Telegraph‘s Camilla Turner has the story.

Eton College’s dismissal of a Master was justified, an appeal panel has ruled as free speech activists pledge to elevate the case to the Attorney General.

The Head Master of the 580-year-old institution said that intellectual freedom “lies at the heart” of an Eton education but added that there are “limits to the freedoms that teachers have”.

Simon Henderson told parents that there must now be a period of reflection on recent events and that the school will need to “consider how we continue to maintain a positive dialogue between those who hold opposing views”. He urged both parents and Eton Masters to “move forward together for the benefit of the boys”.

Will Knowland, an English teacher at Eton, was sacked earlier this year for gross misconduct after recording a lecture which questioned “current radical feminist orthodoxy” and then refusing to remove it from his YouTube channel.

The Free Speech Union has vowed to take the case up with the Charity Commission and the Attorney General, as well as get its friends in Parliament to amend the Equality Act. You can read its response here and in this Twitter thread.

https://twitter.com/SpeechUnion/status/1338532882218946564?s=20

Round-up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Five today: “London Blues” by David Koven, “Here Comes Another Wave” by Legs11, “White China” by Ultravox, “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps” by Doris Day and “Que Sera Sera” also by Doris Day

Love in the Time of Covid

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

Sharing Stories

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

Social Media Accounts

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

Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, from Leo Terrel, a new story from liberal academia. In this case the Harvard Medical School:

In the English language, there are tons of words used interchangeably for female: woman, lady, girl, gal, even damsel, to name but a few. Harvard Medical School just used a new one: “birthing people”.

“Globally, ethnic minority pregnant and birthing people suffer worse outcomes and experiences during and after pregnancy and childbirth,” a tweet said. 

Shortly after, the institution shared a follow-up. 

“The webinar panellists used the term ‘birthing person’ to include those who identify as non-binary or transgender because not all who give birth identify as ‘women’ or ‘girls’,” they said.

They added that the terminology was not meant to “dehumanize” or “erase” women, however it seems to do exactly that by reducing women to their organs. 

To sum it up, this statement is neither progressive nor inclusive. When talking about those who give birth, women should ideally be first on the list. 

For a side that argues in favour of science, the hypocrisy is astounding.

Stop Press: On the subject of liberal academia, we’ve had a couple more entries to our contest for a Woke-English translation of this tweet from the Rhodes Trust.

https://twitter.com/rhodes_trust/status/1224637720137433098?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1224637720137433098%7Ctwgr%5E%7Ctwcon%5Es1_&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Flockdownsceptics.org%2F2020%2F12%2F13%2F

Here’s the first entry:

Billy-Ray works at the University of British Columbia imagining what new letters can be added to LGBTQ+ in the future

And here’s the second:

Billy and Ray are modern alchemists. They can make gold from anything. Or less. Undaunted by empirical evidence that older alchemical methods had failed because the real elemental nature of the target metal resisted synthesis, Billy and Ray pursue, instead, a dog-legged, two-stage, approach. First, an entirely fictional, idealised, currency is created by combining precise quantities of self-importance, outrage, and fashionable abstract nouns. This mind-dependent currency is then exchanged, in meticulously concocted conditions of academic credulity and fear, for the real thing. It is to be noted that the idealised substance has a highly unstable ontological nature, depending as it does on the maintenance of a complex illusion on the part of both its creators and market-makers in the academic community. This would be threatened if Billy or Ray were ever to develop any real creative output; hence their employment roles. Billy and Ray used to worry that their fraud was too transparent. But not these days. 

Stop Press 2: The Telegraph has news of a rare victory for common sense. Unconscious Bias Training will be scrapped for all civil servants after a Government review found little evidence that it works. Toby is taking the credit for this because the Free Speech Union published a comprehensive briefing paper debunking UBT a couple of months ago. You can read that paper here.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

We’ve created a one-stop shop down here for people who want to buy (or make) a “Mask Exempt” lanyard/card. You can print out and laminate a fairly standard one for free here and it has the advantage of not explicitly claiming you have a disability. But if you have no qualms about that (or you are disabled), you can buy a lanyard from Amazon saying you do have a disability/medical exemption here (takes a while to arrive). The Government has instructions on how to download an official “Mask Exempt” notice to put on your phone here. You can get a “Hidden Disability” tag from ebay here and an “exempt” card with lanyard for just £1.99 from Etsy here. And, finally, if you feel obliged to wear a mask but want to signal your disapproval of having to do so, you can get a “sexy world” mask with the Swedish flag on it here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Judicial Reviews Against the Government

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Samaritans

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

Quotation Corner

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

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

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

Mark Twain

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

Charles Mackay

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

Benjamin Franklin

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

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

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

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

Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury

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

Sir Winston Churchill

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

Richard Feynman

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

C.S. Lewis

The welfare of humanity is always the alibi of tyrants.

Albert Camus

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

Carl Sagan

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

George Orwell

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

Marcus Aurelius

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

William Pitt the Younger

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

Joseph Goebbels (attributed)

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

H.L. Mencken

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

Thomas Paine

Shameless Begging Bit

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

And Finally…

https://youtu.be/b-LHdEUrGa8

Lockdown Sceptics’ favourite comedian, JP, has a new YouTube video out. This one’s about the “bravery” people are showing in the face of the coronavirus crisis. Very funny.