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The Future Shape of Things

Sebastian Friebel
Former parliamentary adviser to the German Bundestag

Dear fellow citizens,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I. The World Economic Forum (WEF)

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

Former UN leaders warn against abuse of the United Nations

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

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

Global economic crisis favours transformation of the world economy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

II. Digital companies and governments worldwide

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

Financial and digital groups set up global surveillance architecture

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

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

Return to normality only with digital surveillance?

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

Edward Snowden warns against global architecture of oppression

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

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

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

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

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

Are the corporations losing their grip?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Corona helps banks achieve their goal of abolishing cash worldwide

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

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

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

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

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

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

IV. With their misleading reporting

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

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

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

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

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

How were the ‘Pictures from Bergamo’ created?

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

Even Wikipedia is no longer neutral

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

Corona narrative is impressed on children with computer games

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

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

Democracy is undermined by lobbying and the suppression of uncomfortable opinions

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

Church representatives issue warning

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

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

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

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

People are mature enough to take responsibility for themselves

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

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

No benefits from everyday mask-wearing have been proven

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ministry of Health contradicts itself on everyday mask wearing

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

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

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

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

Proof of immunity means compulsory vaccination by indirect means

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

Not trivialising the virus, but not ignoring new findings

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

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

Devastating collateral damage and human suffering in developing countries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further reading:

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

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

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

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

Edward Bernays, Propaganda

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World Revisited

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

Telegram:
t.me/Wiesollesweitergehen

Twitter:
@es_soll

1 www.weforum.org/great-reset; 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11 CommonPass; www.weforum.org; 2020

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

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

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

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

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

17 www.id2020.org/alliance

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

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

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

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

22 www.centerforhealthsecurity.org/event201/; 2019

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

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

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

26 www.betterthancash.org/members

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

35 www.playcoronaworld.com; 2020

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

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

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

39 13.10.2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

48 House communication 222/2020; German Bundestag; 28.08.2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Latest News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Swedish Government

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

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

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

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

Ivermectin: Miracle Cure or Snake Oil?

Shutterstock/File Photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Swiss Doctor has an explanation of how ivermectin works:

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

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

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

REACT Report: Why Wasn’t it Peer Reviewed?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worth noting…

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

But are lockdowns the way to prevent these scenes?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Value Should We Put on a Human Life?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worth reading in full.

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

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

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

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

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

Look Him in The Eyes… A Reader Responds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Smidgen of Optimism on Masks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Close Encounter With the Police

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

I just need to offload.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next Week’s Davos Guest List

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worth reading in full.

Sceptics Under Fire

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

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

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

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

Round-up

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

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

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

Love in the Time of Covid

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

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

Sharing Stories

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

Social Media Accounts

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

Woke Gobbledegook

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Great Barrington Declaration

Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya

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

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

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

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

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

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

Judicial Reviews Against the Government

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

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

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

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

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

Samaritans

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

Shameless Begging Bit

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

And Finally…

Latest News

How the Left Flunked the Lockdown Challenge

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

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

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

Threat Inflation of the virus

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

Lockdown policy panic

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

‘New Normal’ pseudoscience

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

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

Worth reading in full.

Lockdown Bills Begin to Arrive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worth reading Kate’s piece in full.

The HCQ Saga

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worth reading in full.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worth reading in full.

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

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

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

Find it here.

A School That’s Following Government Guidance

This is not Government guidance

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

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

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

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

Here is my original email.

Dear Mr XXXXX,

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

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

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

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

I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely

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

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

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

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

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

The email will not reference your child or you.

Here is the email.

Find it on Facebook here.

Poetry Corner

A Complex Post-traumatic in Covid Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rising From the Ashes

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

Herts Pasta:

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

Simpkin & Roses:

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

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

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

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

Alison Cotton:

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

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

Please email me here.

Huckleberry:

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

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

COVID-1984

A few more Party slogans from readers:

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

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

Round-up

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

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

Love in the Time of Covid

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

Sharing Stories

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

Social Media Accounts

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

Woke Gobbledegook

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worth reading in full.

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

Paul du Quenoy in the Critic can see why.

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

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

Worth reading in full.

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Great Barrington Declaration

Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya

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

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

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

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

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

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

Judicial Reviews Against the Government

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Samaritans

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

Shameless Begging Bit

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And Finally…

Blower’s cartoon in yesterday’s Telegraph

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why the Left Should Oppose Lockdown

by Phil Shannon

The Durham Miners’ Gala

Preamble

The contemporary left’s support for an economically devastating, authoritarian lockdown, which doesn’t even achieve its limited public health aims, is one of the more remarkable developments in current politics. With its support for extreme ‘social distancing’, the left has reached a new nadir in the ‘political distancing’ between it and its traditional working class constituency, a relationship that has been fraying badly since the democratic, national, working class populist upsurge of recent years as symbolised by the Brexit referendum, the thumping Get-Brexit-Done electoral victory of Boris Johnson, and the surprising Trump miracle.

The left’s lockdown betrayal of the working class further accelerates its decline into political irrelevance. This is not a cause for celebration, especially for someone like myself, a four-decade Australian veteran of working class socialism including as a trade union activist, and member of the Communist Party of Australia and more Trotskyist grouplets than you could shake a Program of the Fourth International at, who still cooks on the left burner (see author’s page here).

What follows is an attempt to understand how and why the left has got into such a pickle over lockdown and how it can begin to resurrect its political integrity.

Why the left (and not just the left) should oppose lockdown
Science
  • The virus is not the virus to end all viruses. The herd immunity threshold is apparently much lower than expected because of cross-immunity due to the common cold and other coronaviruses. Most people (other than the aged with specific comorbidities) who contract it are either asymptomatic or have only mild symptoms. Panicked by one spectacularly bonkers epidemiological model, however, health authorities and politicians across the planet have done their most flamboyant ‘Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!’ impressions, and massively overstated the virulence and lethality of the virus to justify the lockdown lunacy they rushed to institute in order to be seen to be doing something. The virus did not herald the End Times, there never was a curve to be flattened, it never gave cause for draconian lockdown measures.
Public Health
  • Lockdown simply doesn’t work on its own terms. Regardless of if, or when, lockdown was implemented, or how draconian its scope, within and between different countries, the trajectory of the virus, as of other viral pathogens, has followed a natural bell curve of exponential rise, plateau and rapid decline (over just a month or two for the current one) as it hits the limits of natural or acquired herd immunity (Farr’s Law – still going strong since William Farr formulated it in 1840!).
  • Lockdown will kill many times more people (from health conditions left undiagnosed and untreated, and from the so-called ‘diseases of despair’ that accompany economic distress) than the virus could ever manage.
The Economy
  • Quarantining the healthy is economically catastrophic, with Depression-era levels of unemployment, business closures, and mind-numbing long-term government debts and deficits. A demographically-targeted, strategic approach of protecting the vulnerable would have had far better financial (as well as health) outcomes both for the vulnerable and for the whole population.
Liberty and Freedom

With precious little opposition, lockdown has ushered in:

  • ‘Police-state’ powers conferred by emergency decree
  • Suspension of democratic accountability – both parliamentary democracy, and the democracy of the streets (unless it’s for an approved, i.e. woke, cause such as #BLM – that’s allowed!)
  • Fettering the rights to free speech
  • State surveillance (there’s an app for that!)
  • Tech giant censorship
  • Nauseous government propaganda, and
  • Simplistic, in-your-face agit-prop from the establishment media, both private and state
What the left could uniquely contribute to opposition to lockdown
An economic, working class perspective

The left should be emphasising the economic aspect of lockdown because it is the working class who are the principal victims of lockdown. The political right, by contrast, are more authentic when representing the profit-making owners of capital rather than the proletarians they employ, the latter having to content themselves with, at best, an amalgam of conservative economic nostrums such as ‘trickle-down theory’ and ‘a rising sea floats all boats’.

Including retired workers and the young who are destined for a wage/salary-earning future, the working class, those who have to sell their labour to an employer, are the vast bulk of the population. The left thus has the biggest constituency, by far, affected by the economic devastation of lockdown.

A view from the global poor

The rural and other subsistence poor in developing nations are also big losers – from their own countries’ lockdowns and from the contraction of economic demand in the lockdowned richer countries. Three-quarters of new coronavirus cases now detected occur in developing countries and are forecast to increase the prevalence of global ‘extreme poverty’ (living on less than US$1.90 per day) by some 400 million, increasing global ‘extreme’ poverty from one in ten of the global population to around one in seven, and total poverty (living on less than $US5.50 a day) to one in two of the world’s people. This economic hit to the global poor is a result partly of the direct health-related costs of the virus itself but is likely to arise mostly from a population-wide lockdown impacting on the productive, working age population in developing countries because the aged, the most at-risk for the virus, are a much smaller proportion of the total population in poorer countries than they are in the West.

How the left has failed on the virus/lockdown

So, it should be a lay-down-misere for the left to oppose the lockdown on the left’s bread-and-butter economic issues affecting the working class (and the global poor).

It should also be entry-level politics for the left to oppose lockdown on those non-economic issues where lockdown policy dilutes civil liberties and free speech, and strengthens political authoritarianism, censorship, media power, etc.

In the past, the left would have gone off like a firecracker on all the above issues, not least because, historically, it has been the working class which has been the left’s core political stomping ground, and it has been the left which has been the target for repression, censorship and denial of free speech by the capitalist state.

The ideological failings of the lockdown left

What the left has delivered re lockdown, however, are stunning volte-faces on fundamental questions of working class material living standards and on the issues of political and ideological power, such as:

  • The economic hit to the working class: The left has displayed either mute unconcern over the economic cost of lockdown to the working class, or passive acceptance of the ‘necessary evil’ of lockdown in a bizarre twist of the old Vietnam War saying that ‘to save the village [from communists/COVID] we had to destroy the village [the people/the economy]’.
  • The global poor: Finding the developed world’s (white) working class insufficiently reverential of the ‘Other’ (the West’s BAME people – Black and Minority Ethnic – are the sum total of the left’s attention nowadays), the left has increasingly switched its focus to the world’s poor (BAME writ large), who are now, however, to be thrown under the lockdown bus by the left as lockdown drastically ramps up global poverty.
  • Science: The left has rightly demanded that science should prevail over ideology (on climate change, for example) when determining public policy, yet ‘The [Selective] Science’ invoked by politicians, and uncritically embraced by the left, to justify lockdown is either bogus, not proven or still up-for-grabs, and now serves the role of self-justification for promoters of an (ineffective) lockdown.
  • Obedience to authority: ‘Question authority!’ used to be the operating principle of the old left. Now, however, on lockdown, the stance of the left appears to be ‘bow down and obey’ as it welcomes policy dictation from above, including the various placebo-like, theatrical ‘social distancing’ rituals (facemasks and tracing apps and social spacing) that dramatically hype the limited threat of the virus. For the lockdown left, the punchline to the old joke set-up of ‘How can you tell when a politician is lying?’ (answer – ‘When their lips move’) has stolen away in the pandemic panic night.
  • The media: ‘Always believe the opposite of what the media say’ was once the default setting of the left which was clear-eyed about the establishment media’s role as the propaganda arm of the wealthy ruling class. Now, however, the lockdown left has proven itself to be disappointingly susceptible to a media-confected atmosphere of dread and hysteria foregrounded against the omnipresent graphic of a scary virus, or a harried doctor in full PPE, or a nurse in scrubs, that forms the visual backdrop to every emotionally manipulative virus news item, all invoking a sense of Crisis! Crisis! Crisis! and demanding severe lockdown in response. The left’s political compliance with government lockdown guidance, rules, regulations and laws has been surprisingly cheaply acquired.
  • Hypocrisy: Cognitive dissonance is the order of the day for the lockdown left. The imperative to elevate woke pieties above class priorities has, for example, highlighted the woke left’s support for the #BLM protests-cum-riots which flouted the very ‘social distancing’ norms that the left had been, up to then, enthusiastically pushing. Of course, the same leftist priests of social-distancing pronounce anathema on anti-lockdown protests or a Trump rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. For the woke/lockdown left, we’re not ‘all in this together’ – hypocritical political exemptions apply.
The behavioural failings of the lockdown left

The ideological failings of the left on lockdown are accompanied by a pronounced tendency to behave in politically-revealing stylistic ways, including:

  • Belligerence: Converse with most lockdown leftists and you will be struck by their hostility to sceptical views and their lack of respect for the holders of those views. Calm discussion of evidentiary and political differences on lockdown has been replaced by the left’s need to beat down lockdown apostates in heated argument, not with better ideas but with belligerence. In politics, as in fashion, ‘the style is the man’ and the lockdown/woke left’s antagonistic and intimidating behaviour reflects poorly on a political grouping that claims to value liberalism, tolerance and ‘diversity’.
  • Straw Men: Say that lockdown doesn’t work and is worse than the disease and the sceptic will swiftly be accused of being a callous granny-killer, a moral monster who places ‘money’ ahead of ‘lives’, and profit over people (cf. the facile “No life is worth losing to add one more point to the Dow” of Joe Biden, or the rhetorical doing whatever it takes to “save just one life” homily of New York governor, Andrew Cuomo). Setting up straw men (lockdown sceptic = murderer) to knock down is so much easier than respectfully contesting an exchange of ideas or exploring strategies such as demographically-targeting the vulnerable for protection from the virus.
  • Smear by association: Oppose the lockdown? Why, says the lockdown leftist, you must be one of those kooky 5G conspiracists or whatever. Case dismissed. Yes, it is true that some strange political life-forms attach themselves to the fringes of lockdown scepticism. But neither is the left free from a history of its own unwanted and unattractive political relatives, particularly the wild and fundamentally anti-democratic anarchists, up to and including the Antifa goons and Extinction Rebellion loons. Guilt-by-association is a tawdry debating gambit whether used by left or right. Neither the left nor the right can enforce an ideological purity test to control who marches under their banner. There is not much either can do about the loose threads in the great tapestry of political life.
  • Virtue-signalling: Left lockdown lovers portray themselves, overtly or by implication, as a better class of person who is superior to the lockdown sceptic – intellectually superior to those they misrepresent as ‘Deniers’ of ‘The Science’ and morally superior to those whom they caricature as being more concerned with ‘the economy’ over health. We, say the left, may have lost a democratic national referendum or an election but we are still better than the nativists, the xenophobes, the gap-toothed, knuckle-dragging deplorables and, now, the heartless lockdown sceptics who are prepared to cruelly cull society of its old geezers.
Why has the left got it so wrong on lockdown?

Given the sign-off in the US and UK on national lockdown guidelines by both Donald Trump and Boris ‘Get-Brexit-Done’ Johnson, there was a glimmer of hope that the left could come out swinging against a lockdown endorsed by their intensely-hated bêtes noires. Opposition to lockdown could have chimed with the left’s noisy imprecations about evil Tories and wicked Republicans responsible for a lockdown which has savaged the working class. This never materialised, however. Why?

The defeat of the trade unions: Neo-liberalism, Thatcher-Reagan and the rise of Woke

The left’s abandonment of the working class for woke politics is the sour fruit resulting from the defeat of the western labour movement in the 1980s when capital, hit by a severe oil crisis, sought to restore capitalist profitability by making the working class pay. At the forefront of this resurgent neo-liberalism was the neutering of the then-powerful trade union movement, an assault led by the dozy Reagan and the flinty Thatcher, who proved to be more aggressive class brawlers than the defensive organs of labour. In industrial battles of Iwo Jima prominence (Reagan vs the air traffic controllers, and Thatcher vs the coal miners), the neo-liberal victory over militant trade unions demoralised the whole labour movement, sent trade union membership into freefall (aided by structural changes in the economy) and juiced up a “globalisation” which imported cheap foreign labour through ‘open borders’ and off-shored domestic industry to cheap labour countries.
Bereft of its crucial labour support base, a left that once defined itself by the principle of ‘class struggle’ now reaches out to a coalition of the social fringes, what Hillary Clinton extolled as a “rainbow of discontents” who primarily define themselves by race, ethnicity, sex and other identity classification rather than class.
In this break-up between the left and the working class, the left did a reverse ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ routine and blamed the working class for the moral and political failings (‘White privilege,’ ‘toxic masculinity’ and other woke analytical concepts) of the relationship, woke concerns which now preoccupy most of the left.

Derangement Syndromes afflicting the left

Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS) and Brexit/Boris Derangement Syndrome (BDS)
In response to being jilted by their long-term working class partners, most of the left has succumbed to what the right duly, and accurately, mock as political Derangement Syndromes. The democratic, populist, assertive working class revolts manifested in the Brexit/Boris and Trump electoral outcomes has seemingly traumatised the woke left which reflexively dismisses such political phenomena as racist, xenophobic and reactionary nationalist eruptions instigated by ‘far-right’ demagogues. The Trump and Brexit/Boris phenomena were wrong, ill-informed and morally bad choices, says the woke left, wilful choices made by a working class inadequately enamoured of the economic wonders of globalisation, particularly mass Third World immigration and outsourcing, and its attendant woke politics.
Implicit in every woke leftwinger’s spittle-flecked rave about how Trump, for example, is either Bozo the Clown or ‘literally Hitler’, is a distaste not just for the unlikely populist figurehead but for their voters and supporters, who are largely industrial and blue-collar working class (and still largely, and unforgivably to the woke left, white). Both the US and UK versions of Derangement Syndrome are marked by political ferocity towards all populist policies as the work of the political devil, and which are often accompanied by behavioural paroxysms of rage and resentment, incredulity and incomprehension, and intolerance and illiberalism, not to mention frequent verbal profanity. The various Derangement Syndromes allow a rejected woke left to salve the political wounds inflicted on it by its old working class base, to re-occupy the moral political heights by presenting itself as politically and morally virtuous, despite its democratic rebuffs.

From TDS and BDS to Virus Derangement Syndrome (VDS)
The seamless transition of most of the left from TDS and BDS to VDS (Virus Derangement Syndrome) is not surprising. Just as TDS and BDS allowed the left to rage against the political virus of right-wing populism, VDS licenses the left to proclaim that it is us, the left, who still deserve to be in charge of those who either suffer from ignorance (and need to be enlightened by the left-wing holders of truth on the virus/lockdown), or are stupid (congenitally incapably of grasping ‘The Science’ of social distancing) or who are simply Bad People who choose to be immoral, elder-killing delinquents for the sake of their own convenience and pay packets, and who thus deserve to be shamed and demonised for wrongthink on the virus/lockdown.

The cavalier dismissal of the disastrous economic fallout for the working class (and for the global poor) arising from lockdown is the seedy terminus for a left which has swapped class struggle in favour of woke culture wars and identity politics. As millions of workers join the dole queue and lose their freedoms and civil liberties under lockdown, the left is consumed by statuary, ostentatious BLM histrionics, ‘cancel culture’, transgenderism, ‘believe all women’ and the other woke fads of identity politics.

For the left to drop what should have been easy home games (on favourable economic grounds of lockdown-caused recession, unemployment, etc.) against a third-tier virus opponent, is an existential political crisis for the left if ever there was one.

Prognosis for the left after lockdown

Can the left learn from its self-made political disaster of embracing the damaging lunacy of lockdown?

Signs unhopeful

It will be hard to admit error for a left (as with so much of the scientific, political, media and cultural elite) which is so heavily invested in the myth of an apocalyptic virus necessitating draconian lockdown. Political humility is a rare commodity across the left-right spectrum, and the lockdown left is in the same cognitive-psychological space as were those who were strong supporters of invading Iraq because of (mythical) WMDs and who still believe that WMDs were indeed found after the invasion. So, too, does the left have so much political capital tied to the ‘war’ on the virus that the mythology that lockdown actually saved lives will forever inform the dominant narrative of lockdown as a triumphant vindication of the lockdown left’s ‘lives ahead of money’ strategy. Any self-reflection by the lockdown left will be drowned out by the racket of self-congratulation for supporting lockdown and, indeed, for being more hard-line on lockdown than reluctant and half-hearted lockdown conservatives.

Signs hopeful

There are some leftist heartbeats being detected amongst the lockdown rubble, however. Lockdown Sceptics, for example, has flushed out a heartening number of dissident leftists who oppose the deadly nonsense of lockdown (and who, if they’re anything like me, get a little buzz of political dopamine from each issue). New life for the left could yet emerge from the political crisis of lockdown.

Although it is far easier for the left to never agree with the right on anything, it is possible for the left and the right to agree to be all grown-up and adult on what divides us whilst working productively on opposing, and learning from, the disaster of lockdown. Breaking bread with your traditional enemies does carry political risk (to which the ex-leftists which litter the political landscape testify) but any fear of lockdown scepticism being a conservative Trojan Horse is overblown. Strange lockdown times make for strange political bedfellows but if the greatest political blunder and economic own goal in living political memory doesn’t throw up some novel and much needed political couplings, then what will? And who knows what new political charms and pleasures we may discover in each other’s arms?

Ivermectin: Oxford University to Trial Promising, Easily Available Drug as Early Treatment for COVID-19

The Principle trial at the University of Oxford has selected Ivermectin for inclusion in its study of repurposed drugs for treatment of COVID-19. It will be given to people with Covid symptoms to see if it can keep them out of hospital. The BBC has the story.

The Principle study will compare those given the drug to patients receiving the usual NHS care.

The drug has become controversial after being promoted for use across Latin America and in South Africa, despite being so far unproven.

Previous studies of Ivermectin have generally been small or low quality.

Most commonly used to treat parasitic infections such as river blindness, spread by flies, Ivermectin has also been shown to kill viruses in petri dishes in the lab – although, at much higher doses than would usually be prescribed to people.

Ivermectin has been championed by many doctors and scientists since its apparent effectiveness as a Covid treatment emerged early in April 2020, but has been snubbed by mainstream health bodies for reasons that are unclear, leading some to suspect ulterior motives such as sustaining a vaccine narrative or prioritising newer and more profitable treatments. Merck, which manufactures Ivermectin but also recently signed a $356 million deal to supply the US with a much more expensive, experimental anti-Covid drug, went so far as to issue a statement casting doubt on the drug’s safety, even though its safety profile is well known and mild. Scientists trying to publish studies on the drug found the door being shut in their faces with apparent political motives for the refusal. Finally in May, the American Journal of Therapeutics published a peer-reviewed article by Dr Pierre Kory and colleagues entitled “Review of the Emerging Evidence Demonstrating the Efficacy of Ivermectin in the Prophylaxis and Treatment of COVID-19“. Dr Tess Lawrie and colleagues’ meta-analysis, finding a 62% reduction in risk of death among those infected or at high risk of Covid infection (on moderate-certainty evidence), was published in the same journal last week.

While, in a pandemic, the precautionary principle would seem to recommend authorising the use of safe, repurposed drugs that (small) trials have shown appear to work, health authorities apparently did not agree and said there must be higher quality evidence for Ivermectin before it can be approved. Yet because there is little profit in a cheap, out-of-patent drug these higher quality trials have not been done, leaving the drug still without approval or definitive evaluation over 14 months after its apparent efficacy against COVID-19 was discovered. If it does turn out to be as highly effective as the early studies suggest, this will mean the delay will have been responsible for failing to prevent many thousands of deaths around the world.

Still, better late than never, and credit to Oxford for including it in its study despite the politics around it. The Principle trial should provide the definitive answer as to whether Ivermectin is effective at preventing the progression to serious coronavirus disease when used at an early stage.

People aged 18-64 with an underlying health condition or experiencing breathlessness, and anyone aged 65 or over, can sign up to the Principle trial within 14 days of having Covid symptoms or receiving a positive test.

The Failure of the Political Class

by James Moreton Wakeley

One of the most striking things about the past year has been the uniform and all but unquestioning embrace of the novel policy of lockdown by Government, opposition parties, and the mainstream media. Even as the number of fatalities, hospitalisations, and cases collapse, the Government remains religiously wedded to the sclerotic pace of its easing strategy and news bulletins continue to duckspeak calls to comply with the most illiberal restrictions ever imposed on British society, refusing to interrogate these restrictions’ costs. Those who question lockdown orthodoxy, be they distinguished scientists, civil liberties campaigners, or journalists beyond the print and televisual oligopolies, are denounced as ‘deniers’ and shut down.

Let us remind ourselves what lockdown means: it is the state-mandated end of normal social, economic, and political life. It involves everything from the forced-separation of families, to the capricious police over-enforcement of pettifogging, poorly written guidelines of dubious actual legality, to the total marginalisation of normal democratic and parliamentary procedures in what the admirable Lord Sumption has termed ‘government by decree’. It is an unprecedented policy taken from a totalitarian state and adopted by Britain and other Western nations at the cost of ignoring decades of research and established pandemic management strategies. It was the policy of panic. It has been sustained through the deliberate stoking of fear using outright lies. It fatally questions the claims our governmental system formerly had to an intrinsic moral high ground against the grim tyrannies of less happier lands. The economic cost is unfathomable. Yet it now seems to have become an established tool in the State inventory: Chris Whitty hinted as early as January that future lockdowns may be necessary – despite the vaccine – and New Zealand and Australia are showing how ready anglophone democracies now are to shut down their societies at the mere whiff of a handful of new infections.

Nothing, it seems, establishes itself so readily in the political culture of the twenty-first century than a revolutionary new orthodoxy that reverses every natural assumption on how things are and ought to be. It is perhaps telling that such an Establishment consensus exists around lockdown in an age when calling women who give birth ‘mothers’ is an issue of agonised controversy, and in which we are ordered to believe that some of the wealthiest and most socially privileged are, in fact, helpless victims of vast societal conspiracies of persecution. The madness of the age may be plain to many, but it is almost unsurprising to read from one well-informed source that even suggesting lockdown has costs and negative consequences is ‘heresy’ in a Whitehall that cannot even bring itself to brief the Cabinet on such issues.

The Establishment consensus on lockdown is nothing short of the omertà of national self-destruction. To try to understand why it exists, a first step to trying to combat it, we cannot apotheosise – placing politics on a plane above people – but should look to those in power who’ve been driving the policy and to their cheerleaders. The sheer absence of political leadership, as well as the dubious evidential and methodological basis on which the Government has based its decisions, has been noted before. Commentators on the left, moreover, have noticed how the Labour Party’s abject failure to oppose the Government, or even to speak up for sections of society hit hardest by lockdown, owes much to the social distance that now exists between working class communities and the metropolitan liberals who presume to be these communities’ tribunes.

I would argue that this lack of leadership, and the fragmentation of the Left, are but two symptoms of the same condition. Social and intellectual distance from society is a charge that cannot just be levelled at the Left, but at what we could call ‘the political class’ in general. The uniformity of this caste, which shares certain rarefied cultural and social assumptions and which is trained to play at politics in the same way, explains the lack of divergent thinking and the consequent gulf of principled, daring leadership.

By the ‘political class,’ I follow the definition given in Peter Oborne’s insightful 2007 book, The Triumph of the Political Class. His definition encompasses not only those whom Sir Roger Scruton described as career politicians and officials who have never worked in an ordinary workplace, but also the London-based media. Their academic training – all but invariably an arts degree like the politico’s crash course of Politics, Philosophy, and Economics (PPE) – conditions them to approach politics as a game of rhetoric, grand narratives, and media management rather than as a discipline designed to solve practical problems.  Aspirant members of the political class then tend to move from this training into metropolitan jobs that place a priority on wordcraft, presentation, and persuasion – journalism, lobbying, and other occupations adjacent to Westminster politics – working with people who have a common lifestyle and who share the cultural tendencies they adopted at university. This limited exposure to life as it is lived beyond a narrow sliver of London’s knowledge economy and the imbibing of often niche, fashionable causes – the righteousness of which is reiterated in environments where there is a career premium on signalling virtuous credentials – is a recipe for groupthink. 

Indeed, so much of this world is about the formation of social groups and social identity. Individuals from relatively non-elite backgrounds can establish themselves by signalling elite membership through what they do or say, and declaring an interest in certain fashionable – but narrow – interests demonstrates an elevated separation from the unenlightened. This elite identity crosses party lines and the lines that one would imagine would divide lobbyists and parliamentary staff, or journalists and politicians. It is, for instance, why Westminster and the media were so unified on the issue of Remain, and why I, visiting friends still working in parliament during the opening stages of the referendum campaign, was mocked from all sides for supporting Brexit over cosy, cross-party drinks between MPs’ staff.  

The uniformity of the new ruling class, and the games that one must play to enter it, explains the consensus on lockdown. The political class is naturally drawn to power, meaning that its members are often keen to signal how ‘on board’ they are with elite projects. This distorts the line between those responsible for policy and those who should critique it. It is evident in the tendency of mainstream journalists to discuss the pandemic within the framework set by lockdown rather than to think outside of the box, or in their total failure to ask probing questions of ministers and state scientists. They can further tell one another that they are being ‘responsible’ by refusing to question a Government policy designed, of course, to ‘save lives,’ but this means that they partake in the state’s management of society rather than in holding power to account. Many journalists will also avoid criticising lockdown because a lot of those who do are political class undesirables, notably Donald Trump, with whom they do not want to appear associated. It often appears to be a political class article of faith that frequently unreasonable people cannot, in fact, say reasonable things.

It is, moreover, hardly irrelevant to note that lockdown is also more congenial to the political class than to most people in the country. They have secure, well-paid, often interesting and usually public-sector jobs that generally just require a computer and an internet connection. They are also less likely to know personally the kind of people working in private sector service or physical jobs who have suffered the most from the societal shutdown. Home-schooling is similarly less of a problem for those with the financial means or educational attainments to tutor effectively. Lockdown can mean leisurely late breakfasts and bicycle rides.  

The background and associated cultural biases of the political class likewise helps to explain their doctrinaire faith in ‘experts’ and why they so unquestioningly embrace the kind of abstruse modelling peddled by SAGE. Above all, the political class is unfamiliar with the scientific method. They understand ‘the science’ as a term of power they can deploy to shut down debates and win arguments, which has one ‘correct’ answer. They fail to recognise it as a process of investigation, determined by assumptions and inputs, which will often produce outlying results and whose purveyors can unintentionally mislead the uninitiated by the words they use to describe phenomena like percentage correlations. 

Who the actual ‘expert’ is or the nature of their track record is not entirely relevant (and the influential Professor Neil Ferguson’s past performance at predicting pandemic lethality is indeed abysmal). What is important is the rhetorical role that citing the expert plays: it is the argumentum ad verecundiam, designed to intimidate and embarrass opponents, which also abrogates the need to play the ball rather than the man and therefore to grapple with the issue at stake in a truly critical manner. It is the helpful quote in the rushed, weekly essay that allows you to stop thinking about one aspect of the subject and to move on. It is the PPE-ist’s answer.

Political class education, furthermore, all too often prioritises seductive theory over hard-won knowledge. Their social milieu similarly fetishises trendy ideas like innovation, technology, or big data. They therefore seem to have no problem with SAGE’s total eschewal of empirical evidence – be that ignoring seasonality or failing to acknowledge comparative evidence from Sweden or America – as they have been conditioned to see computer-driven, theoretical models as superior, not least because pretending to understand such models functions as a signal of intellectual and therefore of social superiority.

This theoretical bias, which has more than a little of the tendency to proselytise dogma over empirically-driven debate, combined with the political class’s preference for consensus and faith in experts, helps to explain the lazy and limited thinking that has defined the Government’s response to the pandemic. There seems to have been no debate on different courses of action – after Italy showed that the state could ‘get away’ with lockdown – or red-teaming on the policy proposed, with the shutting down of Parliament and the marginalisation of Cabinet contributing to the total absence of the kind of antagonistic debate that identifies problems and tests policies. Once the simple narrative of Covid being the only problem and lockdown the only solution established itself amidst media hyperbole and panic, the parameters of acceptable thought were set. Wider ethical discussions or the identification of adverse effects have remained completely absent.

This narrow-minded groupthink is an indictment of those who presume to be this country’s rulers. It is ultimately a product of a pattern of social and political evolution that has seen the British elite become far more uniform, metropolitan, and hostile to those who break the mould than was the case in the final decades of the twentieth century. Indeed, it is unsurprising that the most significant political event for generations – Brexit – had to be driven by those ‘fruitcakes and loonies’ to be found beyond the political class.

This class’s failure in the age of Covid is twofold. They have failed to represent those they apparently serve, whose reality is foreign to them, and they have failed to think with the degree of rigour, humility, and imagination that a crisis requires. They have been trained to look for easy media wins achieved through citing experts, doubling-down on simple and specious narratives, and attacking their opponents as individuals rather than engaging with their arguments. Herds do not by definition lead. The myopic perspective means that the political class is blind to the costs of lockdown.

Significantly, now that the professional credibility of swathes of the Establishment is tied to lockdown, they cannot refute or question it.  Whatever the objections lockdown sceptics can muster, the logic of the political class will also always be able to combat them to their own satisfaction: lockdown superficially makes sense on a theoretical level, even if increasing amounts of evidence shows that reality does not conform to theory; the opponents of lockdown are ‘bad people’ because the policy was all about ‘saving lives’, and the favoured experts will always be able to be cited in its support. We are told that the current lockdown will be the last, but the structural inability of the political class to question it means that the risk of future societal shutdowns has not, even cannot, go away.

In March 2020, Covid was the crisis. As crises often do, however, it has revealed the far deeper problems already afflicting society and the State, problems more deep-rooted, more damaging, and perhaps far more difficult to address than the disease itself.

Dr James Moreton Wakeley is a former parliamentary researcher with a PhD in History from Oxford.

Latest News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The new rules include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peter Hitchens, however, has a question:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UK – 58,784 Cases/407 deaths

France – 4,022 Case/378 deaths

Italy – 10,800 Cases/348 deaths

Germany – 8,039 Cases/527 deaths

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Very much worth reading in full.

Critical Care Beds Not Overwhelmed

Illustration by Henny Beaumont in the Guardian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You just have to ask why?

Letter From a Reader to His MP About Lockdown 3.0

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

Dear Sir Iain,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for your anticipated response.

Scotland Gets in First

from the Scottish Sun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worth reading in full.

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

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

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

Do Children No Longer Matter?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Schools need to be open and they need to open now

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

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

Catastrophe of Postponing Mocks in Scotland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is a strong statement and requires some explanation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Ever Happened To The Flu?

Verywell/Brianna Gilmartin

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

Where have all the flu cases gone?

Epidemiologist Knut Wittkowski thinks he can answer the riddle.

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

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

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

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

Other experts in the field offer a more conventional explanation:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worth reading in full.

Eternal Lockdown, Wooden Horses and Shiny Things

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worth reading in full.

All the Lonely People

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Round-up

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

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

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

Love in the Time of Covid

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

Sharing Stories

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

Social Media Accounts

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

Woke Gobbledegook

We’ve decided to create a permanent slot down here for woke gobbledegook. Today, the news that the UK Government stands accused of pursuing a white nationalist agenda. The Guardian has the story:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worth reading in full.

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

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

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

“Mask Exempt” Lanyards

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

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

A reader has started a website that contains some useful guidance about how you can claim legal exemption. Another reader has created an Android app which displays “I am exempt from wearing a face mask” on your phone. Only 99p, and he’s even said he’ll donate half the money to Lockdown Sceptics, so everyone wins.

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

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

The Great Barrington Declaration

Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya

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

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

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

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

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

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

Judicial Reviews Against the Government

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

The Simon Dolan case has now reached the end of the road. But the cause has been taken up by PCR Claims. Check out their website here.

The current lead case is the Robin Tilbrook case which challenges whether the Lockdown Regulations are constitutional. You can read about that and contribute here.

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

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

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

Samaritans

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

Shameless Begging Bit

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

And Finally…

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

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

Latest News

Boris in No Rush to Lift Restrictions

The Telegraph reports that Government ministers are in no rush to lift restrictions, believing the public supports going slow and steady (it’s almost as though someone has scared the bejesus out of them). UnHerd in an editorial has had a shot at predicting how the long lockdown of 2021 will pan out.

Vaccination should mean an end to the lockdowns we’ve experienced so far. Step by step, life will return to normal. Households will be allowed to mix again. Schools, shops, pubs and restaurants will re-open. We might even stop wearing masks.

But there’s a catch: the threat of new variants. Even if vaccination stops the spread of Covid in a particular country, there’s the rest of the world to worry about. If the virus continues to spread and mutate elsewhere, there’s a danger that we’ll import a new variant against which our vaccines are less effective.

Therefore, expect massive public pressure for ongoing restrictions on cross-border travel. Australia doesn’t expect to fully reopen its borders this year – not even if most of its population is vaccinated. In the Republic of Ireland, a recent poll found 90% support for quarantining anyone entering the country.

It’s not that we don’t want things to go back to the way they were – in fact, we’re desperate for them to do so. But that’s precisely why we’ll be so protective of the progress that we do make. Hence, the likelihood of long lockdown aimed at locking out any resurgence of the disease.

For most people, the long lockdown will much easier to bear than the crisis lockdowns we’ve come to know and hate. However, there’s one thing that will be worse about the successor regime – it will be more divisive.

Despite Government statements to the contrary, they predict overt vaccination discrimination.

Another divide that the long lockdown might open up is between the vaccinated and non-vaccinated. The latter are likely to face restrictions that the former don’t. Indeed, discrimination could be a deliberate instrument of policy if achieving herd immunity is deemed to be compromised by the refuseniks.

This is already happening, with travel operator Saga informing customers yesterday that only those who are “fully vaccinated” may travel.

Depressingly, much of this UnHerd piece rings true in terms of how things are likely to go. Having bet the farm on vaccines and winning (well, kind of), the prevailing sense now seems to be that the vaccines are simply not good enough to let us go back to normal – some people will still get ill and die, and new variants will come along that might get round them. The Government has never carried out a proper cost-benefit analysis to determine what the limits should be on lockdowns, so it’s just muddling along without any proper guide ropes. How effective do vaccines have to be – what level of deaths can we live with? There will be no end of new variants. Does this mean lockdown forever? Patrick Vallance has suggested that Covid jabs will become annual, like flu. The Mail reports:

Speaking to Sky News, Sir Patrick said: “I think it’s quite likely that we are going to need regular vaccination, at least for a few years. And I think it’s quite likely those vaccines may need to change a bit as they do for flu every year.”

But he added that it was not yet certain whether annual vaccinations would be taking place.

“We don’t know yet,” he said. “But that will be planned in the way it is planned for flu as well. This virus has taken us by surprise time and time again and we just don’t know. There are fears mutant strains of the virus could get around immunity triggered by vaccines, although a variant with this ability hasn’t been identified. 

Sir Patrick told Sky the Government’s scientists are now “increasingly of the view” that the Kent variant “will be susceptible to the vaccine and to previous immunity. The studies are all pointing in that direction so I think that’s good in terms of vaccine effect,” he said. “[But] for some of the others that are popping up around the world – and they will continue to pop up – we’ve still got some question marks as to how effective a vaccine will be.”

Boris Johnson imposed demands for everyone arriving in the UK from abroad to have tested negative for coronavirus and quarantine this week, in an attempt to lock out any new variants.

Sir Patrick said he was pushing ministers for a harder approach against the virus, because their experience since March showed that looser measures easily allowed the virus to resurge.

“I think there is a very simple series of recommendations which I’ve been pushing continuously and I’ll continue to do so, which is the lesson is: go earlier than you think you want to, go a bit harder than you think you want to, and go a bit broader than you think you want to, in terms of applying the restrictions. I’m afraid that’s a grim message but that is what the evidence says – you’ve got to go hard, early and broader if you’re going to get on top of this. Waiting and watching simply doesn’t work.”

Except of course every time we’ve locked down – in March, November and January – it can readily be seen from the data that new infections were falling before the restrictions came in. Why does this simple point never break through in the thinking of senior Government advisers like Vallance?

In this evidence-free atmosphere, the calls of those on the extremes of the debate demanding Zero Covid gain an increasingly sympathetic hearing. Professor Devi Sridhar, the social anthropologist, has redoubled her push for an elimination strategy in a series of tweets. The Herald reports:

[Prof Sridhar tweeted]: “Quite simply: as new variants emerge we don’t know whether our vaccines will protect against them or whether having Covid once means you can’t get it again. Not scaremongering but laying out facts and scientific uncertainty. Why wait and watch instead of getting ahead of this?”

She said the good news is that we know how to control Covid through measures including the “buy-in of population that there’s a plan”, robust test/trace/isolate, and very tight border restrictions.

Professor Sridhar, who is an adviser to the Scottish Government, warned that people will not keep complying if they don’t think there’s “light ahead on when life will get back to normal”.

And she said that eliminating the virus should be the goal where possible.

She tweeted: “Countries that have the resources and political will should clearly eliminate COVID-19.”

It’s a topsy-turvy world where this kind of fantasy of eliminating an endemic, highly infectious virus is regarded as a sensible suggestion while sceptics who suggest applying time-honoured public health principles of risk management, heeding the lessons of no-lockdown states like Sweden, are smeared as dangerous enemies of the people.

Stop Press: The Spectator‘s gossip columnist Steerpike quotes Prof Sridhar claiming that an independent Scotland would “definitely” have made different decisions on the pandemic, and that “in the summer, we got the numbers low”. This suggests a failure to understand that COVID-19 is a seasonal respiratory virus and a failure to recognise that most of Europe, including England, had low infections in the warmer months.

Sridhar continues to push Scotland towards a Zero Covid strategy:

So, yeah, I think it is really hard because we’re not getting the support that we require to be able to go the full way we want to go. It’s hard because, I think, you saw in the summer the talks about elimination and zero Covid, clear focus on getting numbers low – we never saw that clarity of vision from England and that’s really hard. We’re still not getting it, and I hope we will get it, but it might take a few more months.

She’s a big fan of Nic Sturge-On:

“I do feel much safer right now being in Scotland, knowing that there’s a leader in charge who takes the health of the public incredibly seriously and takes her job really seriously and is hard-working.”

She contended that “across the political spectrum… in daily life, anyone I speak to, regardless of what they believe or what party they support, has said that she has done a remarkable job”. Professor Sridhar insisted she wasn’t making “a political point” but said she would “take the heat” and “speak what I think is right”.

Worth reading in full.

WHO Updates Guidance on PCR Tests: Recommends Re-Testing to Confirm Positives

The World Health Organisation has updated its guidance on PCR tests to ensure they are used properly.

Target audience: laboratory professionals and users of IVDs.

Purpose of this notice: clarify information previously provided by WHO. This notice supersedes WHO Information Notice for In Vitro Diagnostic Medical Device (IVD) Users 2020/05 version 1, issued December 14th 2020.

Description of the problem: WHO requests users to follow the instructions for use (IFU) when interpreting results for specimens tested using PCR methodology.  

Users of IVDs must read and follow the IFU carefully to determine if manual adjustment of the PCR positivity threshold is recommended by the manufacturer.

WHO guidance Diagnostic testing for SARS-CoV-2 states that careful interpretation of weak positive results is needed. The cycle threshold (Ct) needed to detect virus is inversely proportional to the patient’s viral load. Where test results do not correspond with the clinical presentation, a new specimen should be taken and retested using the same or different NAT technology.

WHO reminds IVD users that disease prevalence alters the predictive value of test results; as disease prevalence decreases, the risk of false positive increases. This means that the probability that a person who has a positive result (SARS-CoV-2 detected) is truly infected with SARS-CoV-2 decreases as prevalence decreases, irrespective of the claimed specificity.

Most PCR assays are indicated as an aid for diagnosis, therefore, health care providers must consider any result in combination with timing of sampling, specimen type, assay specifics, clinical observations, patient history, confirmed status of any contacts, and epidemiological information.

For months now, sceptics have been ridiculed for questioning the accuracy of the PCR test, referring to the risk of false positives when prevalence is low and urging the Government to carry out confirmatory second tests on those that test positive. This updated advice from the WHO is a vindication of our position. We look forward to Governments and health authorities bringing their practices into line with it.

Stop Press: George Michael writes that “False-Positives are Crushing the NHS“.

This analysis explores the very likely possibility that staff, patients, and the NHS as a whole are being mismanaged due to the significant proportion of positive COVID-19 cases in Pillar 1 that are false (where Pillar 1 represents the data from tests carried out in Public Health England (PHE) labs and NHS hospital settings).

Worth reading in full.

The Smearing of Sumption

Lord Sumption: the monstering of a lockdown sceptic
Lord Jonathan Sumption

Luke Gittos in spiked comes to the defence of Lord Sumption, whose comments about how lives are valued in public health policy has been wilfully misunderstood by people determined to demonise lockdown sceptics.

There is something really frightening about the unhinged mobbing of retired Supreme Court justice Lord Sumption that has unfolded over the past few days.

Over the weekend, Sumption appeared on BBC One’s The Big Questions to explore whether lockdown was “punishing too many for the greater good”. In the course of the debate, he entered into an exchange with Deborah James, who has stage-four metastatic bowel cancer.

Sumption said that the life of his grandchildren was worth far more than his own because they had “much more of it ahead”. James, who hosts the BBC’s You, Me and the Big C podcast, said Sumption was wrong to say that therefore her life was “not valuable” as she had less life ahead than many others. Sumption responded by saying, “I didn’t say it was not valuable. I said it was less valuable.”

You do not need a medical degree to know what Sumption was saying. In fact, you probably only need an ounce of common sense. Sumption was making a point about how we ascribe moral value to different lives according to their remaining length and quality. He subsequently explained to Good Morning Britain that he was not making any point about James herself. He said “every policymaker has to make difficult choices. Sometimes that involves putting a value on human life. It’s a standard concept in health economics.” He was making the point that healthcare necessarily involves deciding on what, or rather who, to prioritise. Doctors make such difficult judgment calls every day. This is not controversial.

This issue is central to questions related to lockdown. Those who die of Covid are likely to be very old. The difficult moral question posed by the virus, and our response to it, is how to balance the need to protect the vulnerable with the need to ensure that everyone else continues to receive healthcare when they need it. To pretend that this is a non-issue is to fail to engage with one of the central moral questions raised by the pandemic.

I do not think any of this is revelatory. In fact, I believe everyone knows that this is what Sumption was saying.

Yet this hasn’t stopped people twisting his views, calling them “abhorrent” and comparing him to a eugenicist.

Worth reading in full.

Triple Test Challenge

There’s an opportunity for Lockdown Sceptics readers to get involved in important research putting the different types of COVID-19 tests to the test. From the PhysioFunction website:

Testing in the community: would you like to help in the control of COVID-19 with a free same day test result and a free antibody test if you are positive?

PhysioFunction has been providing COVID-19 testing services since June 2020. We offer:

PCR tests that are processed by a UKAS accredited testing laboratory (No.4236), and

Point of Care Lateral Flow Tests (“rapid 30 minute tests”) adhering to ISO 15189 and ISO 22870 standards. 

PhysioFunction has been commissioned to provide supervised PCR sample collection and Lateral Flow Test processing to gather important data on test reliability and accuracy.

We need 1,000 volunteers as soon as possible to take part in the trial – with or without symptoms.

The trial will involve participants taking three coronavirus tests, one after the other:

1.    A PCR test which will be sent to a Government processing centre

2.    A PCR test which will be sent to a certificated private UKAS accredited laboratory

3.    A Lateral Flow test which will produce a result in 30 minutes at the testing site

There is no charge to participants. Participants who test positive will be offered a FREE antibody test after 28 days to confirm the presence or absence of antibodies to the coronavirus. 

There are two testing locations – one in Central London and one in the East Midlands, near junction 18 of the M1, at Spratton. 

The three tests will only take 15 minutes to complete under supervision by trained staff. The results of the Lateral Flow test, positive or negative, will be communicated to you by email after you have left the test site and the result is known. Additionally, the result of the private PCR test will be communicated to you by email as soon as the result is known – most likely within 24 hours.

In order to take part, you will need to have requested a Government PCR home test kit from www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test.

Please book an appointment when you have received your kit.

A confirmation email with the date, time and location will be sent to you to confirm your booking. Please bring the unused Government test kit with you, and be on site at the appointed time. This allows all three tests to be completed at the same time. 

We do hope you feel able to do this trial with us, and please do ask some of your friends to do the same. 

Please contact us with any queries at info@physiofunctiontrial.co.uk

Thank you for your consideration and assistance. 

Doctors Ask for National Breast Screening Service to be Paused

A doctor has written to us with some unwelcome news about the prospect of cancer screening being suspended once more.

We have just received notice from the Association of Breast Surgeons who has written to NHS CEO Simon Stevens asking that yet again the National Breast Screening Service is paused (i.e. stopped). You may know that this was stopped between March and July! Apparently in the interest of minimising risks from Covid.

I have absolutely no idea what the so called “risks” there are. I do not think we have had any nosocomial Covid from women attending either screening service or follow up mammograms.

Sure, for some women delaying screening is of little consequence, but for others it can make a big difference. Either way, even if there could be a demonstrable lack of effect of delaying diagnosis (which there is not) ,I would still find it very difficult to justify stopping screening.

I find the fact that we are prioritising Covid over breast cancer utterly disgusting and a failure of the profession to assess real Covid risks vs “presumed” Covid risks. It also takes away the concept of freedom, in that patients can choose whether or not to attend screening mammograms.

Ivermectin Inches Towards Approval

The awaited meta-analysis of trials involving the drug Ivermectin to treat COVID-19 by Andrew Hill at the University of Liverpool was published as a pre-print on Tuesday.

It concludes: “In six randomised trials of moderate or severe infection, there was a 75% reduction in mortality.”

However, “many studies included were not peer reviewed and meta-analyses are prone to confounding issues. Ivermectin should be validated in larger, appropriately controlled randomised trials before the results are sufficient for review by regulatory authorities.”

A video presentation by Dr Hill was leaked at the end of December. Arab News reported on it earlier this month.

Early-stage trials indicate that a cheap and readily available drug has the potential to make “transformative” changes to COVID-19 mortality rates, according to a leaked presentation by Liverpool University scientists.

Data revealed in the presentation suggested that the drug Ivermectin – normally used to treat lice – could cut deaths in hospitals by as much as 80%.

In 11 trials involving more than 1,000 patients, those who received the drug appeared to clear themselves of the virus in about half the usual time.

Trials of another 5,000 patients have yet to report their results, but Dr. Andrew Hill, the researcher at Liverpool University who gave the leaked presentation, said they are expected soon.

He emphasised that his data looked only at the so-called “gold-standard” randomised controlled trials, in which patients were randomly assigned the drug or a placebo.

“The combined data may be large enough to get to World Health Organization recommendations for treatment being used worldwide,” Hill said.

“If we see these same trends consistently across more studies, then this really is going to be a transformative treatment.”

He said the anti-parasitic drug could be a particularly important weapon against COVID-19 in the developing world because of its low cost. “It’s very attractive because it costs between $1 and $2 for a treatment course,” Hill added.

Dr Sebastian Rushworth has expressed a similarly positive opinion on ivermectin as the meta-analysis in a recent blog post. He goes into some detail about the studies and their shortcomings. He sums up:

Three of the four trials did produce some signal of benefit. However, all four trials had major flaws, and two of the trials that did find a benefit were also giving Doxycycline, which makes it impossible to disentangle whether the potential benefit was coming from Ivermectin or Doxycycline. But these trials were all small, so it’s perfectly possible that there is a benefit but that the trials were just too small to detect it. What we really need now is a big, high quality, double-blind, randomised controlled trial of Ivermectin as a treatment for Covid.

He is hopeful, though:

Do I think the huge reduction in mortality is real? I think it’s very possible. These were after all randomised controlled trials, so the risk of confounding factors is low (with the exception of Doxycycline, which could be responsible for some or even all of the beneficial effect seen). And, as mentioned, the risk of publication bias appears to be pretty low. And the outcome for which there is a big effect size is mortality, which is a hard outcome that is hard for researchers to manipulate.

It’s frustrating that these trials have not been done for a drug so promising. Dr Rushworth suggests a reason why.

If Ivermectin were shown to be effective against Covid, that would be great, because it’s generic, cheap, safe, and widely available, so it would be easy to start treating people quickly. Unfortunately, that also means western pharmaceutical companies have zero interest in doing research on Ivermectin, because there is no way to make a decent profit from it. Who does have an interest? Poorer countries that can’t afford expensive new drugs. That means the research on Ivermectin as a treatment for Covid has been pretty much entirely carried out outside the west.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Robert Clancy, Emeritus Professor of Pathology at the University of Newcastle Medical School in Australia, has written a good piece in Quadrant looking at vaccines and treatments.

More Mask Study Problems

Lockdown Sceptics reader Thomas Verduyn has taken a closer look at the Lancet mask study I criticised yesterday the one funded by Google claiming to find that a 10% increase in self-reported mask-wearing was associated with much lower R rate and found more holes. Thomas has a degree in Engineering Science from the University of Toronto where his focus was aerospace engineering. He says he keeps his brain sharp by reading around 10 textbooks a year across a range of subjects. Over to him.

Unfortunately, there are multiple problems with this study.

1. The study did not include mask use at work as they operated on the assumption that most Americans were not going to work. This is a critical omission as lots of people still went to work and also ate lunch together in lunchrooms.

2. The study ends with a list of other factors they did not take into account. For example, they point out “it is difficult to disentangle individuals’ engagement in mask-wearing from their adoption of other preventive hygiene practices, and mask-wearing might be serving as a proxy for other risk avoidance behaviours not queried (e.g. avoiding crowded spaces…)” Any one of these factors might have shifted the results, especially given the observed change in transmission values was small, the averages varying only between 1.0 and 1.1.

3. The study involved so many variables that when I read the report I imagined someone sitting at his computer and adjusting the parameters until the perfect slope resulted. For example, they used a “smoothing parameter for political party identification”. Elsewhere they say: “The percentage of non-White individuals included in the study was included as a confounder because of the relationship of race with epidemiological indicators of SARS-CoV-2.”

4. The study hinges on R values provided from the web site Rt.live. However, according to that web site, the model used to calculate R was “changed significantly on June 19th”. As this date is right in the middle of the mask study, it calls its results into question.

5. Figure 3 (“Mask wearing, physical distancing, and the predicted probability of Rt being less than 1”) is based on a faulty model. According to the graph, if 70% of people wear masks and observe social distancing there is a 100% probability of community transmission control. Given what happened in the Covid second wave, this is nonsense. Here in Manitoba, for example, where nearly 100% of people wear masks and where social distancing is being rigidly enforced, the case numbers went up significantly in November and December.

6. Figure 4 (“Mask wearing in the 14 days before and after state wide mask mandates”) shows that mask use did not increase noticeably in any of the 12 states that made masks mandatory during the study. This raises questions about the validity of the responses by the participants. For example, in Manitoba mask use rose steadily all summer until about 60% of people were wearing masks. Masks were mandated by the provincial government in late September. Almost instantaneously 100% of Manitobans obeyed the order and started wearing masks. I am, in fact, one of only two people I know refusing to wear a mask. Although Americans are indeed quite different to Canadians, it stretches plausibility that a mandatory mask order in a state would not have had an observable effect on mask use. Worse, the report takes this to imply a need for Government to find means of enforcing mask use: “The absence of a statistically significant change in reported mask-wearing during the two weeks following statewide mandates highlights the point that regulation alone might not drive increased masking behaviour.”

7. The study reports that when mask use went up, transmission went down. This was true. However, a cardinal rule of statistics is that correlation is not causation, e.g. although winter always follows the harvest, harvest does not cause winter. The study does not offer any evidence of causation, which instead appears to be assumed throughout the report. One confounding factor is the seasonality of the virus. The virus was naturally declining in most areas just as mask use was on the rise. A second confounding factor was the summer surge in some southern states where mask use was less common, unrelated to masks but adding to the apparent correlation. It would be interesting to see a similar study that covers November and December, when case numbers were rising significantly.

Finally, is there any significance in the timing? The report was published the day before Biden became President. Biden has said he will make masks mandatory. The report concludes by saying: “Policy makers should consider innovative strategies for evaluating and increasing mask usage to help control the epidemic.” This seems very convenient. In any case, certainly it will be called upon as evidence when Biden pursues his nationwide mask mandates. It is therefore very bad news.

A Pharmacist Writes…

Arise, Sir Toby?

A Lockdown Sceptics reader and pharmacist who works for the NHS in a psychiatric hospital for a large mental health trust in the North has written in with an idea. Why not nominate some sceptic heroes for an honour for their “exceptional contribution to the response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis in the UK”? She writes:

Firstly, I’d like to thank you all for keeping me sane throughout all this. I was a lockdown zealot at first, then in May, a friend showed me a clip of Lord Sumption’s interview by the BBC and I instantly began to question the Government’s course of action. I’d not considered any of the implications on our liberties and I wasn’t aware of any alternative viewpoints or science at this stage. I researched further and further, discovered the likes of Peter Hitchens and the rest of the journalists and scientists questioning the Government narrative. Needless to say I’ve been trying to spread “the word” ever since.

I’ve written to my MP three times, attended a protest and donated money to various crowdfunders. It has been difficult. Family members whom I consider to be highly intelligent with several degrees and MAs between them think I am mad. My mother thinks I need help and has offered the support of a family friend “who sympathises with me on how isolated I might feel right now…” My father thinks Lord Sumption is wrong (what?). My sister disapproves that I have refused the vaccine (it’s my body and it usually takes 10-15 years for a vaccine to be approved so no thank you!).

Anyway, I stumbled across this (see below) and I am contemplating nominating Toby Young or Peter Hitchens. Or perhaps Mike Yeadon or Ivor Cummins or maybe all of them for their continuing dedication to their coronavirus related work! After all it does say you can nominate anyone. Wouldn’t it be great if thousands upon thousands of us nominated Lord Sumption for example.

Nominate someone for coronavirus-related work (GOV.UK): You can nominate someone who has made an exceptional contribution to the response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis in the UK. Anyone can make a nomination and there is no deadline. Nominations will be considered by an independent honours committee.”

What I find utterly bewildering is, since when did our freedoms become contingent with the smooth running of the NHS? It really is insane all of this and we will look back and wonder what on earth we were doing and all the zealots will be sheepish and insist they questioned lockdowns all along and masks were never really compulsory. To all you at Lockdown Sceptics and those out there, stay strong and never give up.

Requiem for Universities

We’re publishing a new piece today by regular Lockdown Sceptics contributor Sinéad Murphy, a philosophy lecturer at Newcastle University. From the introduction:

Universities have been dying for some time. As their prospectuses have grown glossier, their gateway buildings more spectacular and their accommodation for students more stunningly luxurious, the Humanities subjects have been gradually hollowed out.

Academics’ intellectual work has been streamlined by the auditing procedures of the ‘Research Excellence Framework’ and by growing pressure to bid for outside funding, which is distributed to projects that address a narrow range of approved themes – Sustainability, Ageing, Energy, Inequality…

Student achievement has been dumbed down by the inculcation of a thoughtless relativism – Everybody’s differentThat’s just my interpretation – and by the annual inflation of grades.

The curriculum has begun to be tamed by continual revision – never broad enough, never representative enough – and by the drive for ‘equality and diversity’.

And teaching has been marginalised by the heavy requirements that it represent itself on ever proliferating platforms and review itself in endless feedback loops.

Universities, in short, have been gradually transforming into what they proudly trumpet as a Safe Space, a space that has been cleared at greatest expense to Humanities subjects, a space in which the slightest risk – that a thought might lead nowhere, that a student might be uninterested, that an idea might offend or that a teacher might really persuade – has been mitigated by so many layers of bureaucratic procedure that most of everyone’s time is spent in wading through them.

Covid has brought these developments to a head, she says: “Safe Space universities have come to their culmination. No space is safer than an empty space. And universities are empty at last. The shell has cracked and fallen away. The university is no more.”

Worth reading in full.

Poetry Corner

Spotted by a Lockdown Sceptics reader below Allison Pearson’s column in the Telegraph. By David Jones.

Sorry, short of nurses,
And doctors rather few,
Short a bit of masks and kit
For beds there’s quite a queue!
We’ve Managers and Admin,
And Directors in their hordes,
We’ve nigh on half a million
On Agencies and Boards!
On Trusts and Panels nationwide
We take our pay and pension,
On Senates and Commissions
And Groups we couldn’t mention!
Our new Computer System
Ten billion spent in vain…
By some odd quirk it wouldn’t work,
We’ll have to buy again!
Our En-Aitch-Ess is in a mess
Your taxes keep us going;
Send forty billion every year
And keep that money flowing!

Round-up

https://twitter.com/alexmaccaroon/status/1351981838265438212?s=19

Theme Tunes Suggested by Readers

Three today: “Ruins” by Cat Stevens, “Better off dead” by Elton John and “I’ll Stay Till the Beer Runs Out” by Ray Sanders.

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, it’s the turn of the University of Leicester and its proposal to drop Chaucer and other medieval literature from the English syllabus in favour of a full panoply of wokery. The Telegraph has the story.

The University of Leicester will stop teaching Geoffrey Chaucer’s work and other medieval literature in favour of modules on race and sexuality, according to new proposals.

Management told the English department that courses on canonical works will be dropped for modules “students expect” as part of plans now under consultation.

Foundational texts like The Canterbury Tales and Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf would no longer be taught under proposals to scrap medieval literature.  

Instead the English faculty will be refocused to drop centuries of the literary canon and deliver a “decolonised” curriculum devoted to diversity.

Academics now facing redundancy were told via email: “The aim of our proposals (is) to offer a suite of undergraduate degrees that provide modules which students expect of an English degree.”

New modules described as “excitingly innovative” would cover:  “A chronological literary history, a selection of modules on race, ethnicity, sexuality and diversity, a decolonised curriculum, and new employability modules.”

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Listen to American academic John McWhorter talk about the ideological excesses of the social justice movement on the Quillette podcast.

“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: WalesOnline reports on a video of a woman without a mask being escorted from Sainsbury’s while telling police she doesn’t need to wear one. She can be heard arguing the officers had “no right to ask me what my disability is. It’s against the law”. Worth bearing in mind that in our Covid police state officers are empowered to enforce Covid regulations, including mask-wearing, and can issue fines as they see fit, including through determining whether in their view you have a “valid exemption“. Whether it would stand up in court is another matter, but there can be no doubt that police officers have indeed been given frightening powers to issue fines and enforce rules according to their own discretion.

The Great Barrington Declaration

Professor Martin Kulldorff, Professor Sunetra Gupta and Professor Jay Bhattacharya

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

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

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

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

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

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

Judicial Reviews Against the Government

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

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

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

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

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

Samaritans

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

Shameless Begging Bit

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

And Finally…

Latest News

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.