Covid Restrictions

Why Does Your Doctor Want to Keep You Masked?

There follows a guest post by Paul Stevens, who is part of the Smile Free campaign to end forced masking in the U.K., which is currently inviting signatures to its open letter to the NHS Chief Executives to remove the mask requirement from healthcare settings.

Walk into your General Practitioner surgery and what will you see? Notices demanding that you ‘wear a mask’ and people with ill-fitting face coverings, most of which having been frequently touched, reused, rarely washed and improperly stored.

By contrast, in public spaces such as hospitality venues, retail settings and transportation hubs, you’ll find a lack of signage and a marked reduction in mask-wearing. More and more, people aren’t wearing them.

It’s as if we are living in two worlds: one where we have begun to return to a rational unmasked normality; and one, in healthcare settings including GP surgeries, where we are instructed to remain featureless and compliant with the facemask diktats of nameless NHS bureaucrats.

To understand how, and why, these worlds co-exist we need to start by looking at the frame of reference within which GPs operate. As independent contractors, for all intents and purposes GPs work within the NHS; and many are members of a single body, the British Medical Association (BMA). The NHS and BMA, one guiding and enabling the other, have played major parts in establishing and maintaining masking within healthcare settings.

The NHS has been a major advocate of masking and, as published on the Government’s “COVID-19: Infection prevention and control” (IPC) webpages, its current guidance for mask-wearing within health and care settings remains that facemasks for staff and facemasks or coverings for all patients and visitors are “recommended”.

Keir Starmer Pledges to Quit if Fined By Police Over Beergate

Keir Starmer has gambled his career on being cleared over Beergate by making an extraordinary vow to quit if he is fined by police – with Angela Rayner also promising to do the same. MailOnline has the story.

The Labour leader gave a statement after spending hours hunkered down with aides trying to decide how to handle the mounting crisis over the boozy curry event in April last year.

He insisted he is “absolutely clear” no rules were broken and he believes in “honour and integrity” – saying he is “very different” from Boris Johnson. 

Sir Keir said he had self-isolated six times, and obeyed the rules when his father-in-law was ill, suggesting even his opponents did not really believe he would have breached them in Durham. 

“If the police decide to issue me with a FPN I would of course do the right thing and step down,’ he said – although pushed by journalists he declined to say what he would do if police merely rebuke him publicly. 

Angela Rayner echoed his stance, saying in a statement: “If I were issued with a fine, I would do the decent thing and step down.”

The intervention – which raised the prospect of Labour being left without either of its two top politicians – came after a day of building tension, which saw Sir Keir cancel a think-tank event where he would have been grilled by journalists and ignored questions as he left his London home this morning.

He has agreed with senior figures urging him to get on the front foot by committing to resign should Durham Police find he broke Covid rules.

The strategy is high-risk but could potentially leave Sir Keir in a strong position if police do not issue a penalty – while allies suspect he would need to go anyway were he to receive a fine. It also means he will have more leverage in clashes with Mr. Johnson after the Queen’s Speech tomorrow.

He must be hoping the officer in charge of the case isn’t a Tory.

Worth reading in full.

Airport Chaos With Two-Hour Queues into the Carpark as Airports Fail to Recruit Replacements for Lockdown Layoffs

Holidaymakers jetting off today face airport chaos, with delays to flights and queues stretching outside the terminals. MailOnline has more.

Passengers at Manchester Airport say they are facing a two-hour wait at security check-in this morning, with queues leading outside the terminal and into to a nearby car-park.

Meanwhile, at Birmingham Airport, passengers have complained of ‘ridiculous’ queues at departures today, with long queues outside the main terminal building.

There are also delays to flights, with at least ten late flights at Manchester and four at Birmingham as of 8am this morning. Meanwhile at Stansted, there were also claims of two-hour delays at passport control last night.

The reason is that airports laid off almost half their staff during the pandemic, and despite Birmingham saying it began a recruitment drive in November, six months it seems is not long enough to recruit and train replacements for the lost workers. Manchester, however, admitted it only began its recruitment drive last month.

Leaked Memo Undermines Keir Starmer ‘Beergate’ Defence, Increasing Pressure to Resign

Keir Starmer is in very hot water after the Mail on Sunday obtained a secret Labour Party document which appears to blow apart his version of events over ‘Beergate’. The Mail on Sunday has the story.

An operational note drawn up ahead of Sir Keir’s notorious visit to Durham, where he was filmed enjoying a late-night beer with activists, reveals the gathering had been planned in advance. 

The bombshell document, marked “private and confidential”, also calls into serious doubt Sir Keir’s claim that he returned to work after the beers and takeaway curries.

After the entry recording the “dinner in Miners Hall” – which includes a note to “arrange takeaway from Spice Lounge”, a local curry house – the document simply says: “End of visit”.

The dramatic revelation follows the announcement by Durham Constabulary on Friday that it was opening a fresh investigation into the event on April 30th last year, which took place when indoor socialising was illegal. 

The inquiry comes after a series of revelations in the Daily Mail.

The memo – which was passed to this newspaper by a whistleblower – also further undermines Labour’s claims that it made “an honest mistake” when it denied that Deputy Leader Angela Rayner was at the event: it lists “AR” alongside “KS” as the two senior politicians anchoring the day’s proceedings.

The Labour leader – who is also under pressure from party members over his failure to make a significant U.K.-wide breakthrough in last week’s local elections – is facing accusations of hypocrisy, having called for Boris Johnson’s resignation in January when Scotland Yard launched its inquiry into claims of No. 10 lockdown-breaking.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said last night: “Being investigated or receiving a fixed-penalty notice is not a resigning matter for anyone at all – unless of course you’ve daily argued the case that it is just that and repeatedly called for the resignation of others. He’s bang to rights and has no choice but to resign thanks to his own sanctimonious hypocrisy.”

Worth reading in full.

Keir Starmer to be Investigated by Police Over ‘Beergate’

Keir Starmer faces a police investigation into his lockdown curry, after repeatedly demanding Boris Johnson should quit for breaching rules in similar circumstances. MailOnline has more.

The Labour leader is at risk of being engulfed by the so-called ‘Beergate’ row after Durham Police dramatically declared it will probe “significant new information” about the gathering. 

The force initially decided Sir Keir did not breach Covid rules when he and party aides had drinks and a takeaway in April 2021, when millions of Britons were banned from mixing indoors in most circumstances. But following intense pressure and a series of revelations – including that up to 30 people attended and shared £200 worth of food – the position has shifted.

Sir Keir maintained a stony silence as journalists threw questions about the situation on a visit to Carlisle this afternoon. Labour said the party was “happy to answer any questions there are and we remain clear that no rules were broken”. 

However, there is frustration among Tories that the decision was only taken after the local elections – when the PM’s own fine over the Partygate scandal damaged his support.

The development could raise serious doubts over Sir Keir’s future, as he trenchantly argued that Mr Johnson should resign when he was found to have broken the law. 

Sir Keir had been filmed drinking a bottle of lager with colleagues at the event at the offices of Durham MP Mary Foy in the run-up to last year’s local elections – and has been wriggling when asked about the incident all week.

Sadiq Khan risked inflaming the row earlier this week by admitting there was “equivalence” between Keir Starmer’s actions and the PM’s birthday gathering in the Cabinet Room in June 2020 – which has seen him and Chancellor Rishi Sunak fined. Mr. Khan suggested the main difference was that the Labour leader only broke lockdown once.

Tory MP Richard Holden, backed by several ministers, wrote to Durham Constabulary insisting there was now “incontrovertible” evidence Labour had “lied” about the events of a year ago, including there now disproved claim that the deputy leader Angela Rayner was not there. 

South Africa Brings in Restrictions to Combat New Variants – But is the ‘Wave’ Already Running Out of Steam?

South Africa has ramped up its restrictions again in response to the recent reported rise in infections associated with new subvariants Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 as the southerly country heads into winter.

South Africa never lifted its mask mandate and, though the mandate was due to end this week, has now extended it. It never lifted it despite the country skipping the Omicron BA.2 wave and having low infection levels for months, its original Omicron wave being much smaller than in other countries (see below) and the variant anyway being considerably milder and posing no threat.

Indian Supreme Court Rules Vaccine Mandates Unlawful as Courts Around the World Push Back Against Pandemic State Overreach

It’s been over two years since waves of ever tightening restrictions, including wholesale house arrests, began to be placed on healthy citizens who had committed no crime. One by one, the world’s democracies buckled to the herd panic about the Covid pandemic sweeping the world and their governments increasingly took on hues of totalitarian regimes in telling people when, where, how far, how long and with whom and how many they could go out or even sleep with; what businesses could operate and under what conditions; what medications doctors could and could not prescribe irrespective of their own professional judgement and knowledge of their patients; and mandatory mask and vaccine requirements for an array of social and professional interactions.

Many directives lacked scientific basis and some were downright wacky – there really is no better word for it. The apotheosis of executive overreach came in Canada with the truckers’ Freedom Convoy in Ottawa and in the Australian state of Victoria. In both, MPs betrayed the people, the country and the constitution by putting their own careers first, the party second and the country last. The unchecked growth of the administrative state and centralisation of authority, power and decision-making in prime ministers’ and premiers’ offices fused seamlessly into the rise of the biofascist state. Complicity by the media in propagating fear porn, social media censorship of alternative voices and threats of disciplinary proceedings including dismissal and deregistration by professional governing bodies ensured there’s been a stifling conformism.

£10,000 Lockdown Fine Case Collapses – “Hundreds” More to Follow, Says Lawyer

Hundreds of restaurants and gyms hit with lockdown fines could see their fixed penalties revoked in the courts, a leading lawyer has suggested. MailOnline has more.

Twenty-three such cases have already collapsed so far, with more than 800 more having “strong cases” for potential appeals, solicitor advocate Lucinda Nicholls, of Nicholls & Nicholls explained.

Ms. Nicholls said gyms were particularly susceptible to fines due to confusing official guidelines – including regulations that said those with a BMI higher than 40 were “entitled to go to a gym for exercise”.

“Therefore gyms were allowed to be open for that category of customer,” she told the Times. 

Now legal experts across the country have accused official bodies of showing ignorance for the exceptions to lockdown restrictions that saw businesses wrongly hit with financial penalties.

The developments come after a gym owner who faced a £10,000 fine for keeping his gym open during the second lockdown saw the “flimsy” and “inept” case against him dropped.

Alex Lowndes, who owns Gainz Fitness and Strength in Bedford and St Neots in Cambridgeshire, refused to close his gym in November 2020 after COVID-19 restrictions were imposed. Mr Lowndes’ establishment was subsequently raided by police and he was charged with a breach of lockdown regulations, which he denied.

The businessman failed to pay the fixed penalty notice and was due to stand trial last March, however his case, defended by Ms. Nicholls, collapsed after the authority failed to gather sufficient evidence to prosecute.

Bedford Borough Council said the case was in the “public interest”, they enforced the rules at the time and that there was “ample evidence for a successful prosecution”. 

The CPS has said each lockdown fine would be considered on its individual merits. 

Mr Lowndes told the BBC: “They [the council] should have looked at it even six months in and gone ‘this is a waste of time’. But they kept going and they kept going, they brought in an external barrister, they kept spending money, and it just got out of control.”

He added: “[Contesting the case] was based on principle. We should never have shut in the first place and we stand by what we did at the time.”

Worth reading in full.

Boris Johnson Accused of “Instigating” Downing Street Lockdown Party as Tory Rebels Plot His Downfall After May Elections

Boris Johnson has been accused of having “instigated” a Downing Street party, as Tory MPs claim he could face a fresh coup attempt after the May elections. The Telegraph has more.

The Prime Minister faced accusations that an office gathering to mark the exit of Lee Cain, the former Number 10 Director of Communications, was not a party “until he arrived”.

It has been claimed that a photographer was present and captured pictures of Mr. Johnson at the event, which took place on November 13th 2020.

Downing Street did not dispute the description of the event but said it was untrue that Mr. Johnson had organised it.

The Prime Minister’s actions at the event – which allegedly included delivering a speech, pouring drinks for people and drinking himself – will threaten to derail his argument that “all rules were followed”.

Mr. Johnson is expected to receive a second fine from the Metropolitan Police, with organisers of large gatherings facing penalties of up to £10,000.

Senior Conservative MPs said that if the party performed poorly in next month’s local elections, this could provide a fresh pretext for attempts to move against the Prime Minister.

Mr Johnson is preparing for one of the toughest political weeks of his time in office, as he faces MPs in the Commons tomorrow to give a statement over his “partygate” fine.

Worth reading in full.

The Covid Rules That Won’t Go Away

The legal rules may have gone in England, but many contexts don’t seem to have noticed. The Telegraph has compiled a list of the places stuck in a neverendemic where Covid rules are still in force.

Hospitals across the country are still banning loved ones from visiting patients, even though the official NHS guidance has told them to open up. More than one in eight hospital trusts in England are still refusing to allow any visitors, while many more have some form of restrictions in place. …

Households are still having to book a slot before visiting rubbish tips – a system that has led to an increase in fly-tipping. …

Holidaymakers are still having to wear masks at airports and on flights, even though the legal requirement no longer applies. Major airlines, including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, easyJet, Norwegian, Jet2 and Tui have relaxed the rules. However, they still require passengers to wear masks if the destination country mandates that people wear face coverings indoors. This means a passenger flying to the USA, where there is still a federal mask mandate on aircraft, will have to cover their nose and mouth for the duration of the flight. Airlines are still encouraging passengers to wear masks, even though it is not required, and are urging them to pack masks in case the rules change. U.K. airports are also strongly advising holidaymakers to wear masks in terminal buildings, bus stations and railway platforms. …

The days when visitors could wander into a gallery or museum have not yet returned. During the pandemic, many introduced booking systems which required people to obtain tickets in advance, so that visitor numbers could be better managed. Some have not yet reversed the policy, even though social distancing is no longer a legal requirement. …

Theatres are also sticking with some coronavirus restrictions. The Old Vic says it would “strongly recommend and request that you wear a face mask at all times”. It also asks visitors who are exempt to download a “mask exemption” badge on their phone to display it to staff. Visitors are being offered mask exemption stickers, even though everyone is legally exempt from wearing masks. Everyone is also required to sanitise their hands before entering the building.