Lockdown harms

Boris Johnson is Guilty of Misleading Parliament and, Worse, Imposing Lockdown Restrictions in the First Place, Says Spectator

Boris Johnson is guilty of misleading the House of Commons and, even more seriously, of putting “the lockdown laws on the statute book in the first place, framing them in such a way as to criminalise everyday interactions”. That’s the damning verdict of the Spectator, a publication the Prime Minister himself once edited, in its leading article today.

The Prime Minister remains guilty – most explicitly of misleading the House of Commons when he denied that any parties took place. He has shown a serious failure, too, in not learning from his mistakes. It is no use him or anyone else in Government complaining about the triviality of the charges. His Government put the lockdown laws on the statute book in the first place, framing them in such a way as to criminalise everyday interactions.

Now the Prime Minister’s allies plead for clemency. It is in human nature, they say, to gather to bid farewell to a departing friend or colleague, to offer friendship and succour. Quite so. Johnson’s allies further argue that, as he raised his glass in a toast, he did so in a work capacity – as evidenced by the presence of his red box. This Jesuitical defence would be more plausible if the Government’s laws had not seen ordinary people dragged to court and found guilty of far milder offences. Let us consider his defence for the leaving party: I briefly attended such gatherings to thank them for their service – which I believe is one of the essential duties of leadership. Particularly important when people need to feel that their contributions had been appreciated and to keep morale as high as possible.It is a damning – and accurate – charge against the Prime Minister that he is no man of principle

Does he realise, even now, that he made it illegal for anyone to do this during lockdown? Where, in his lockdown rules, was the exemption for the ‘essential duties of leadership?’ Where was the clause allowing those outside the ruling elite to have a regular ‘wine-time Friday?’ Does he realise that he personally used the powers of his office to send the police after anyone else who would have attended a gathering to salute a departing colleague? Or, for that matter, to console a friend, visit a dying relative or even attend a funeral in numbers greater than stipulated by the staff of No. 10.

The Prime Minister said it was ‘right’ to salute former colleagues in a leaving party. He’s quite correct in that it is a decent, humane thing to do. But consider the childminder in Manchester who was fined for delivering a birthday card to a child in her care: was it ‘right’ for her to do so? Of course. Did this help her, when police intercepted her to enforce the Prime Minister’s rules and took her to court? Not one bit. His needless, draconian lockdown rules were enforced by police upon millions of people, with tens of thousands taken to court. No one – not the pensioner in his allotment, not the mother celebrating her child’s birthday with two friends – had the chance to argue before the magistrates that what they were doing was ‘right’.

When police went after two women in Derbyshire for the crime of walking through a park with takeaway coffee, one might also ask: was it ‘right’ for them to seek each other’s company and avail themselves of the basic liberty of a free country? Of course. Did Johnson’s laws prohibit this? Unforgivably: yes. And this is the point.

So to hear him now talk about what was ‘right’ and ‘decent’ is hard to swallow. This magazine argued for him to decriminalise lockdown rules, to offer guidance and leave people to judge what is ‘right’ – as was being done with much success in Sweden and several states of America. But Johnson refused to do so, preferring to turn Britain into a police state. While having every intention of flouting the laws when he considered it opportune to do so.

How ironic that in the November 2020 photograph of Boris Johnson raising a toast to the spin doctor he had forced to resign, a copy of The Spectator can be seen resting on the table. This magazine had argued against that month’s lockdown and its needless criminalisation of everyday life. By then, the logic for lockdowns had collapsed. But, thanks in part to a supine opposition, No. 10 pressed ahead anyway. Those leaving drinks took place when all other social gatherings had been banned under pain of huge fines.

Lockdowns involved the passing of the most damaging, illiberal laws in British postwar history. The social and economic cost is still being counted. Johnson is guilty not simply of breaking his own rules, but of failing to assess if those rules even worked. The sheer scale of the law demanded a rigorous assessment of the policies behind it, but no serious cost-benefit analysis was conducted. Nor were studies commissioned to ask why infections seemed to have peaked before the previous lockdown. And no one is now asking why, if lockdown was the only means of holding back a Covid wave, Sweden has done so well without ever imposing one.

One thing the editorial omits is that the current Editor, Fraser Nelson, himself threw his support behind the third national lockdown in January 2021, as well as having supported the first. I’m not aware he has apologised for that, but perhaps in light of this blistering editorial he will.

Worth reading in full.

Time For the NHS to Drop All Covid Restrictions and Get Back To Normal

There follows a guest post by Dr. Elizabeth Evans, Director of U.K. Medical Freedom Alliance, who says it’s past time the NHS joined the rest of the country in a return to normality. You can support the UKMFA “NHS Back To Normal” campaign by adopting the “NHS drop the restrictions” logo as your profile photo on social media.

We are now well over two years into the Covid pandemic and heading into summer. At this point, the Government has long-since dropped all the Covid mandates and told the public that we must “learn to live with Covid”. Hospitality venues, bars and theatres are full of people socialising and enjoying themselves; face masks are now a far rarer sight in shops and on public transport; and there are more smiles and spontaneous hugs being seen in public.

Yet when you enter a healthcare facility you could be forgiven for thinking you had entered a time warp and were back in the bad old days of lockdown 2020. Even as you enter you are met with gallons of hand sanitiser, Perspex screens, masked staff and even security guards barring the way and interrogating would-be patients and their chaperones. Aggressive notices on doors, walls and even the floor instruct you as to where you are or are not allowed to be and what you must wear, do or not do. Sick and vulnerable people are being denied the support of a loved one in outpatient appointments and A&E, and visitors to inpatients are severely restricted or, in some cases, barred.  

This creates a dehumanising and intimidating environment which provokes an instinctive and unpleasant fear response in many who experience it, which is not conducive to the delivery of the high-quality care that we expect from the NHS, instead often resulting in worse health outcomes. The failure to let go of these measures and allow a return to normal practice is perpetuating unnecessary and irrational fear which will prevent society from moving forward.

Government Fear Propaganda Made Covid Worse, Says Report

A new inquiry by the charity Sense about Science has concluded that the Government’s top-down attitude to the pandemic and simplistic and exaggerated messaging hindered the public’s ability to respond and caused unnecessary harm. Amy Jones at UnHerd has more.

The inquiry used testimony from expert witnesses combined with new population surveys to analyse the impact of the Government’s approach and communications during the pandemic. It found that, rather than empowering individuals to make sensible decisions based on risk and knowledge about the pandemic, the government instead chose to focus on simplistic slogans, such as ‘hands, face, space’ and stringent universal rules.

By focusing on such paternalistic messaging, the government at times misled the public, for example leading people to believe that their risk of infection was higher than it actually was (the inquiry notes this is particularly true of children and the young.) In an attempt to increase compliance with the rules – even after evidence showed a huge disparity in risk for different age groups – the Government continued to imply that Covid didn’t discriminate.

This meant that groups at lower risk, such as children, were subject to stringent, harmful restrictions, the impact of which could have been reduced or avoided. It also meant that resources weren’t adequately allocated to those who were most at risk. As such, there was a failure to consider the cost of different interventions, which should be standard practice for policy decisions.

Modelling scenarios, for example, did not consider the harm of school closures, and therefore failed to consider optimal strategies for keeping children in school. The Government failed to effectively communicate the rationale behind such policy decisions, instead simply issuing blanket decrees – something which harmed people’s ability to adequately judge risks. In the first few months of the pandemic, the inquiry found that 60% of policies were set out in press releases, rather than in policy documents, and around 90% provided no clear link to the available evidence behind policy decisions.

Even if the Government Can ‘Move On’ From Partygate, the Public are Stuck With the Consequences of Lockdown

“Let’s move on please, there are more important things to deal with.” This is what we often hear in relation to ‘partygate’. I don’t think sceptics are in such a hurry. We all want to move on in life but that is not easily achieved when we have been misinformed, taken for a ride and then taken to the cleaners.

The sceptics aren’t just Daily Sceptic readers but a growing number of the public who are seeing that much of the media have not delivered a full, honest account in reporting the last two years of pandemic restrictions and enforced medical interventions. What I find interesting is that, in much of the media’s eagerness to see the downfall of Boris Johnson, everyone is getting to see a little more of the ‘bigger picture’ the media have, up until now, been trying to hide. How could those enforcing all those ridiculous mandates be indulging in so many parties and social mixing if Covid was such a deadly disease? Why were so many coerced into a trial vaccination programme for a disease that evidently poses so little threat to them?

How we have been deceived! Yet much of the media focus on the minor detail of whether a particular event was a party, what certain photos show, whether Boris Johnson actually knew he was attending a party, whether he should have received more fines etc. They want to know if there is enough evidence to show that the PM misled Parliament because convention dictates that, if that were the case, he should resign – the big news story. The news story for me is whether the Government misled the public, not Parliament.

The scandal that lies before us is one demonstrating how those in power, who determined the rules and directed the hardships of the last two years, are more concerned about themselves and whether they have misled their colleagues than us plebs. The deception has severely affected many of us, the younger generation in particular. There are now increased hospital waiting lists, deaths from delayed cancer diagnosis and treatment and rampant economic inflation – true wrongs that deserve more than a token fine. It is this mendacity and betrayal that have consequences and will continue, possibly for decades, to have grave ramifications from which some may never be able to ‘move on’.

Dr. Mark Shaw is a retired dentist.

NHS Boss Orders Hospitals to Scrap Remaining Covid Visiting Restrictions

NHS hospitals have once again been told to scrap any patient visiting restrictions introduced during the Covid pandemic. MailOnline has the story.

Amanda Pritchard, Chief Executive of NHS England, yesterday told trusts to allow visitors to boost patients’ “experience, mental health and recovery”.

In a letter sent to hospital bosses, she said all healthcare settings “should now begin transitioning back towards their own pre-pandemic (or better) policies on inpatient visiting”.

Ms Pritchard added the “default position” should be “no patient having to be alone unless through their choice”.

NHS guidelines were updated in March to allow patients to have two visitors for at least one hour per day and “ideally for longer”.

But nearly half of trusts maintained policies so strict they flaunted the guidance, the Mail on Sunday found.

Last month Queen Victoria Hospital in Sussex, Yeovil Hospital and St Bartholomew’s in London came under fire for stringent visitor limits. MPs claimed the restrictions were illegal.

Ms. Pritchard said the guidelines were the “absolute minimum standard”. 

The letter also announced the decision to “reclassify the incident from a Level 4 (National) to a Level 3 (Regional) Incident”. The level was last raised on December 12th as Omicron surged.

Worth reading in full.

Youngest Children Most Harmed by Lockdowns, Research Finds

The youngest children have been most affected by lockdowns and school closures during the Covid pandemic, with new research finding that the educational progress and social development of four and five year-olds suffered severely during their first year at school. The Guardian has more.

Aggressive behaviour such as biting and hitting, feelings of struggling in class or being overwhelmed around large groups of children were among the difficulties reported by teachers during interviews.

Claudine Bowyer-Crane, of the National Institute for Economic and Social Research, said the findings were worrying: “Not only does it suggest that children who started reception in 2020 are struggling in the specific learning areas of literacy and maths but also that a smaller proportion of these children are achieving a good level of development.”

The research – published by the Education Endowment Foundation – found parents and teachers concerned that children in England were struggling with their emotional wellbeing as well as their ability to learn language and numeracy skills, after starting in reception classes after the earlier spring lockdown.

“For many children the experience of lockdown was made harder by cramped living conditions, no access to green spaces, parental mental health difficulties and financial hardship. On starting school, they had to contend with the disruption caused by COVID-19 restrictions only to then go back into another lockdown after just one term of schooling,” the researchers concluded.

Yet Boris Johnson has refused to rule out more lockdowns and the WHO is to tell states to prepare to do it all over again.

Worth reading in full.

We Know the Damage Lockdowns Did to Our Children, So Never Again

There follows a guest post by Hugh McCarthy, a retired Headteacher in Northern Ireland who until recently served as a Director on two of the province’s main education councils and who remains a ministerial appointment on one.

The damage to our children highlighted in recent reports and briefly summarised below should act as a clarion call and a warning that we should never close schools again, never send children home to isolate and avoid wearing masks around children. And the whole edifice has been based on the fear-inducing, ineffective and harm-causing masks and the totally misleading and flawed PCR tests.

As I revealed in these two articles, the tragedy is the evidence was there from the start, before we inflicted such damaging policies on our children.

This article addresses the question, What do we do now?

First, a brief reminder of what the education reports found. The Ofsted report highlighted a huge range of damaging impacts including:

  • delays in babies’ physical development;
  • a generation of babies struggling to crawl and communicate;
  • toddlers struggling with speech and language;
  • regression in children’s independence.

NHS Chief Blames Lack of Face-to-Face GP Appointments for 24% Fall in Dementia Detection Rates

Progress on tackling dementia has stalled, Sajid Javid admitted on Tuesday, as the NHS dementia chief blamed the lack of in-person GP check-ups during the pandemic for a 24% drop in dementia detection rates. The Telegraph has the story.

Speaking at the Alzheimer’s Society annual conference, in London, Mr Javid said 1.6 million people in the UK were expected to have dementia by 2040, up from around 900,000 now.

Advances had been made in recent years, the Health Secretary said, “but the pandemic has stemmed the tide of progress”.

“Despite the best efforts of the NHS it became harder for some people to get a timely diagnosis because the pandemic made it more difficult to access memory assessment services,” he added.

The NHS dementia chief [Professor Alistair Burns] also told the conference that remote GP appointments meant opportunities to diagnose dementia had been “lost”…

Prof Burns said there were “pros and cons” to tele-consultations. “Crucially for me [there is the] issue of digital exclusion, people may not have access to some of the new technology and are at a disadvantage.”

Many patients have said they struggled to see their family doctor in person during the pandemic. The most recent official figures from NHS Digital show 62% of GP appointments were held in-person in March, compared with around 80% pre-pandemic.

Many aspects of primary care “slipped a bit” during the pandemic, Prof Burns added.

Citing new figures, he said the number of people at risk of dementia who were referred for assessment dropped by almost a quarter in the six months to this year, from 147,000 pre-pandemic to 112,000.

“It’s been a tough time for everyone during Covid, but I know particularly people with dementia, their families and carers have lost out disproportionately,” he said.

Worth reading in full.

Lockdowns Leave Toddlers Unable to Speak and Play Properly

Toddlers’ speech and motor skills have dropped sharply in the wake of the pandemic, official data show. The Telegraph has the story.

Experts said that repeated lockdowns had left young children without the chance to play and learn how to communicate, setting back their development.

The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) raised fears that the gaps being witnessed now could widen in coming years, with increasing numbers of children struggling at school because basic skills were never learned.

Assessments show that one in five children are not meeting expected standards by the age of two-and-a-half, with thousands likely to need help such as speech and language therapy.

The figures came amid warnings from speech and language therapists that they are facing increasing demand, with one in three saying referrals have doubled since the pandemic.

Figures published by the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities show that 79.6% of children who received a review last autumn met the expected level in all five areas of development measured.

Across the preceding three-and-a-half years covered by the data, the figure was 83.1%, the Health Service Journal reported…

Communication skills suffered one of the most significant falls in performance, according to data. Just 85.3% of children hit the expected standard, down from 88.1% over the previous 14 quarters.

Dr Doug Simkiss, the chairman of the British Association for Community Child Health, said: “The pandemic reduced the opportunities for children to play with other children and highlights the importance of nurseries and early years settings for language development.”

Worth reading in full.

NHS Bureaucracy DOUBLES During Pandemic – But Nurses Increase Just 7%

NHS bureaucracy has doubled since the start of the pandemic despite little change in the size of the frontline workforce, with nurses increasing just 7%, a new report reveals. The Telegraph has more.

The figures come as a record 6.4 million people – one in nine of the population – are on waiting lists, with record trolley waits in Accident & Emergency departments. 

And it follows concern that an extra £12 billion a year funding boost, funded by a 1.25% National Insurance hike, which came in last month, will be swallowed on management salaries, instead of clearing the backlogs. 

The new analysis shows that the number of officials working in the Department of Health and NHS England has more than doubled in two years, with even sharper rises seen at the most senior levels. Meanwhile the number of nurses rose by just 7%, thinktank the Policy Exchange found. Its experts said the trends showed an “astonishing” explosion in central bureaucracy, calling for an urgent review and action to slim down and streamline its workings. 

The findings come ahead of a review of leadership in the NHS by a former army general. Sir Gordon Messenger has been sent in by Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, amid concern over the quality of management in the NHS as the service faces the biggest backlogs in its history. The general has been asked to stamp out “waste and wokery” in the health service and ensure “every pound is well spent”.

The analysis shows that the total pay bill at the Government department and central body in charge of the NHS has doubled in the two years since February 2020, from £42 million to £83 million.

The workforce of the bodies rose from 7,883 to 14,515 over the period, with the number of senior officials rising by 125%. 

Even these figures exclude health agencies – such as the U.K. Health Security Agency – and its predecessor Public Health England, which expanded during the pandemic. 

Meanwhile, the nursing workforce rose by just 7% – from 298,632 to 319,808, despite desperate shortages of frontline staff. 

It comes as Boris Johnson orders a Civil Service cull, with 91,000 jobs due to go in order to cut costs by £3.5 billion…

The report shows some of the steepest rises in bureaucracy come at the top of the health bodies. The figures show a 130% increase in senior roles at NHS England in just two years, while the senior headcount at the Department of Health doubled.