Mail+

Lockdown Sceptics Were Publicly Shamed and Vilified for Saying Lockdowns Won’t Work – But Now We Have Evidence They Were a Disaster

Toby has a new piece in Mail+ today, in which he says he was publicly shamed and vilified in March 2020 for saying lockdowns won’t work, but now has evidence they were a disaster.

A new report by one of America’s leading universities has concluded that the lockdowns imposed across the world over the past two years have had “little to no” effect on saving lives.

According to the Centre for Applied Economics at Johns Hopkins, the lockdowns in Europe and the United States only succeeded in reducing Covid mortality by 0.2%.

This conclusion wasn’t based on a single study, but on what academics called a ‘meta-study’.

That is, the economists at Johns Hopkins looked at 24 different empirical studies that examined the impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) on reducing Covid deaths.

The research the authors compiled on stay-at-home orders found that they had slightly more impact than lockdowns, reducing Covid mortality by 2.9%. But studies of specific NPIs (facemasks, closing non-essential businesses, border closures, school closures, limits on social gatherings) found there was “no broad-based evidence” to suggest they had a great impact on Covid deaths. One exception to the rule was closing non-essential businesses, which reduced Covid deaths by 10.6%.

However, the economists found that limits on the number of people who could gather in one place, such as the rule of six, may have increased Covid mortality by 1.6%.

The negative impact of the interventions, on the other hand, was enormous, with GDP in 2020-21 shrinking by 9.9%, with an estimated cost of £250 billion. There was also the social cost and the cost to children’s education, with a report this week from the Centre for Social Justice finding that 100,000 children still haven’t returned to school. Plus, of course, “the NHS became, to all intents and purposes, a Covid-only service”, leading to a projected up to 12 million people being on the NHS waiting list by 2025, according to the National Audit Office.

No wonder, says Toby, the authors of the Johns Hopkins report conclude that “lockdown policies are ill-founded and should be rejected as a pandemic policy instrument”.

This is a personal vindication, Toby says.

Has Boris Finally Placed His Trust in the Common Sense of the British People Rather than the Cassandras in Lab Coats?

I’ve written a piece for Mail+ praising Boris for deciding not to impose further restrictions at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting. This could be a turning point, I argue.

It was the first time a decision about whether to lock down had been made based on real-world data, as opposed to the gloomy predictions of the Sage modellers.

Last week, the UK Health Security Agency – the successor agency to Public Health England – said the number of new daily Covid infections from the Omicron variant had reached 200,000 a day. These figures just hadn’t shown up yet in the Government’s coronavirus dashboard because of reporting delays.

In fact, that number was an estimate based on Sage modelling which, as usual, turned out to be overly pessimistic. In the past seven days, the number of daily Covid cases by specimen date peaked at 102,297 on December 15th, and yesterday, the number of newly reported cases was 91,743. Meanwhile, the UKHSA has quietly withdrawn the 200,000 figure.

We cannot say for certain that daily cases won’t tick up again over Christmas, which is why Boris Johnson has been careful not to rule out any further restrictions. But the data from Gauteng province in South Africa, the centre of the Omicron outbreak, shows cases falling sharply in the past week. That suggests the new variant burns out quite quickly as it runs out of new people to infect.

On Sunday, this prompted South Africa’s ministerial advisory committee on Covid, which is similar to Sage, to recommend that the quarantining of contacts and all contact tracing be halted with immediate effect.

One of the reasons our Government’s scientific advisers have been so gloomy is because the Sage modelling teams have assumed that Omicron is as deadly as the Delta variant, but the data from other countries, including South Africa, implies it’s less likely to result in severe disease or death.

For instance, new data from Denmark suggest Omicron is 60 per cent less likely to result in hospital admission than infections from previous variants.

That might explain why Covid hospitalisations have not been significantly increasing in the UK, in spite of the rise in case numbers, and why they’re falling in South Africa.

Sir Patrick Vallance and Professor Chris Whitty have warned of 3,000 new hospital admissions a day if further restrictions aren’t introduced – a figure Sajid Javid quoted in yesterday’s Cabinet meeting when arguing for more severe measures. But on Saturday, just 900 people were admitted to hospital with Covid, not much higher than the 865 daily average for the previous seven days.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Boris has confirmed that no new Covid restrictions will be brought in before Christmas, although he hasn’t ruled out some changes to the rules immediately after Christmas. BBC News has more.

In a video clip released on Tuesday, Mr Johnson said: “What I can say tonight, is that naturally we can’t rule out any further measures after Christmas – and we’re going to keep a constant eye on the data, and we’ll do whatever it takes to protect public health.

But in view of the continuing uncertainty about several things – the severity of Omicron, uncertainty about the hospitalisation rate or the impact of the vaccine rollout or the boosters, we don’t think today that there is enough evidence to justify any tougher measures before Christmas.

We continue to monitor Omicron very closely and if the situation deteriorates we will be ready to take action if needed.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press 2: Philip Thomas, a Professor at Bristol University, writes in the Daily Mail his Covid model has consistently got it right and it’s telling him there’s no need for another lockdown.

Stop Press 3: Andrew Lilico in the Telegraph says we should be able to get through the Omicron outbreak without any further restrictions.