Public Inquiry

U.K. Covid Inquiry Proposes to Examine Vaccine Deaths

The Chair of the U.K. independent public Covid inquiry, Baroness Heather Hallett, has told the Prime Minister she wants her inquiry to cover vaccine side-effects and fatalities. The Mail has the story.

Very rare yet serious side-effects from the Covid vaccine could be explored in the forthcoming public inquiry into the pandemic.

It may also look into the struggle which affected families have faced in getting compensation.

Probe chairwoman Baroness Heather Hallett wrote to the Prime Minister last Thursday outlining the key areas under scrutiny – including pandemic preparedness, lockdowns, testing, PPE and care homes – which he will have to sign off before the inquiry can begin.

The Mail on Sunday has learned that she also asked if her inquiry can cover deaths and life-changing side-effects from the jabs.

While multiple studies have shown Covid vaccines to be safe – with more than 53 million Britons having had at least one dose and nearly 40 million receiving three – a small minority of people suffered serious health problems including blood clots and inflammation in the heart.

In the U.K., medical regulators have reported 438 blood clot cases and 79 deaths linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine. 

More than 900 applications have now been filed for compensation over death or injury due to vaccines, with the total claims reaching £110 million. However, not a single payment has been made.

The inquiry seems unlikely to explore this issue properly if only because the data collected and published on it to date are so limited and poor. But it is reassuring at least that the head of the inquiry wants to cover it, and presumably the Prime Minister will not refuse permission. Good also to see pandemic preparedness in there – it will be interesting to see what the inquiry makes of the Government’s performance when assessed against its own plans.

Worth reading in full.

“The Government Does Not Plan to Close Borders or Stop Mass Gatherings During Any Pandemic” – Why Did Britain Throw Away its Pandemic Plan?

Of the many myths that have taken hold during the pandemic, perhaps none is more central than that the Government was caught out by Covid with no idea about how it ought to respond. Thus the extreme and unprecedented response of lockdown appears to many to be justified by this notion that ministers had little choice but to ‘play it safe’, and the subsequent experiments in social restrictions as we awaited and delivered a rushed vaccine and beyond are imagined as a heroic voyage into the unknown of how a government ought to respond to an ‘unprecedented’ disease.

In fact, though, the Government had a plan for what it should do, the U.K. Influenza Pandemic Preparedness Strategy 2011, and COVID-19 was well within the bounds of what the plan anticipated. As Dr. Noah Carl has noted, this was the plan the Government was following until mid-March 2020, with SAGE re-affirming at a meeting on February 4th 2020 that officials “should continue to plan using current influenza pandemic assumptions”.

While the strategy was focused on influenza, it expressly anticipated the possibility of a new SARS virus:

A pandemic is most likely to be caused by a new subtype of the Influenza A virus but the plans could be adapted and deployed for scenarios such as an outbreak of another infectious disease, e.g. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in health care settings, with an altogether different pattern of infectivity.

As Vaccine Demand Collapses, U.K. Faces £4 Billion of Waste With 80% of its 650 Million Dose Stockpile Unused

The U.K. has used just 142 million of the stockpile of 650 million vaccine doses it purchased, leaving an estimated £4 billion worth of vaccines unused and, at current levels of take-up, likely going to waste. The vaccines typically have an expiration date of six to 12 months after manufacture – though it’s not clear how many of the 650 million doses have already been manufactured and put in storage and how many are on order for future manufacture and delivery.

Officials have not revealed exactly how much was paid for the Pfizer vaccines, which comprise nearly a third of the total ordered, but the U.S. Government is reputed to have paid around $20 (£16) a dose.

The Moderna vaccine is said to have cost a bit less, perhaps about $15 (£12) per dose, and the Astra Zeneca considerably less, perhaps as low as $4 (£3) per dose as it was sold at cost. There are no data on the other five types ordered, all of which are as yet completely unused.

If an average price of $10 (£8) per dose is assumed, the total bill for all the unused vaccine doses will amount to around $5 billion or £4 billion. Will the public be forgiving of this massive waste of public funds on account of it occurring with good intentions during a state of emergency? That remains to be seen.

It is however far from the only example of pandemic profligacy. The losses due to fraud and delinquent business loans are colossal, with City AM reporting that the Treasury’s £4.3bn fraud write-off is likely to be eclipsed by £20bn of Covid loan defaults. The Government has also written off £8.7bn it spent on protective equipment bought during the pandemic, with £673m of equipment unusable, £750m not used before its expiry date, £2.6bn of equipment judged to be unsuitable for use in the NHS, and £4.7bn being due to the Government paying more for it during the acute global shortage than it is now worth. The Government also spent £569m buying 20,900 ventilators, of which only 2,150 (10%) were used, the rest being left idle in a Ministry of Defence warehouse.

What the COVID-19 Public Inquiry Needs to Address

Last week, we invited Daily Sceptic readers to submit suggestions of questions or topics that the U.K. COVID-19 Public Inquiry – which is presently consulting on its terms of reference, closing April 7th – ought to address. Here are some of the suggestions.

  • How did the Public Health Act come to overrule basic rights?
  • The classification of ‘cases’, Covid deaths, and the use of mass PCR and LFT testing in healthy people.
  • Lack of cost/benefit analysis of measures, including not estimating the quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) lost by everyone. Whether the three lockdowns were justified from a health standpoint and from an overall cost benefit standpoint.
  • Divisive nature of Government policy, asking people to report their neighbours and discriminating against and demonising the non-vaccinated.
  • The lack of a clear exit strategy when imposing the lockdown measures.
  • The evidence for the claim that the ’vaccines are safe’ and for the quickly shifting goalposts of ages to be vaccinated.
  • How can you claim it was for health when you locked down gyms and leisure centres? Particularly as some leisure centre gyms have GP referral schemes and are part of cardiac rehab phase 4.
  • Did the Government consider the impact on the drop in tax revenue, which funds the NHS, as a result of business closures and people losing their jobs?
  • How many people died because of the lockdowns, through delayed treatment, suicide and by other means?
  • Why did the Government lock down when it had determined that COVID-19 was not a high consequence infectious disease?
  • One of the worst aspects of Government restrictions was that power was given to thousands of managers, proprietors and other operators of businesses, which enabled them to dictate to their workers and staff just what should be done. That the measures were more often than not irrational and counterintuitive was ignored. With the various relaxations that have taken place, some of these people have continued to march, bark, hector and bully more or less unimpeded.
  • Why were so few swabs available for sample collection in 2020?
  • Why has the MHRA not made any comment or public report on the monthly Yellow Card adverse event record? Surely, its job is to examine this information to determine if it is reliable, understated or overstated, and to make recommendations as the regulator? If another medicine was producing these reports would they just keep logging numbers without any comment? And if they have been advised not to comment, by whom?
  • How were mandates implemented without any scientific backing? I am thinking about the Rule of 6, not allowing sitting on a bench outside when walking, the scotch egg debacle, where you were only allowed to sit down in a pub when there was a substantial meal, the mask mandates overall, but in particular having to wear a mask when walking in the pub but being allowed to take the mask off when sitting down, etc.
  • The use of the fear narrative by Government bodies such as Public Health England (now UKHSA).
  • Why was the Coronavirus Act extended for so long each time?

Respond to the COVID-19 Public Inquiry Consultation on its Terms of Reference

The U.K. COVID-19 Public Inquiry is consulting on its terms of reference. The consultation opened on March 11th (not coincidentally, perhaps, the second anniversary of the WHO declaring a pandemic) and will close on April 7th.

Daily Sceptic readers are encouraged to respond, bringing to the inquiry’s attention the questions that ought to be included (the draft terms of reference can be found here). If readers would like to send us the questions they suggest to the inquiry – either by email or in the comments below the line – then we can publish them.

Steve Baker’s suggestions can be found here, Dr. David Livermore’s here and Allison Pearson’s here.

A Curate’s Egg of a Public Inquiry

We’re publishing a guest post by Dr. David Livermore, Professor of Medical Microbiology at UEA, about the official public inquiry into the British Government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, which he regards as a ‘curate’s egg’ – good in parts, and the bad bits aren’t all that bad. (You can see the Draft Terms of Reference, published on Thursday, here.) The fact that it will be overseen by Baroness Hallett (pictured) is not a disaster – she acted as coroner for the victims of the 7/7 bombings and seems like an honest broker. Nevertheless, Professor Livermore had identified four omissions in the inquiry, such as this one:

First, and foremost: democratic accountability and the use of advisory committees. From the start of the pandemic until mid-2021 we were governed by a War Cabinet comprising Messrs Johnson, Raab, Gove and Hancock, along with Drs Whitty and Vallance. Their decisions were predicated on SAGE’s groupthink. Parliamentary scrutiny was suspended. Churchill’s dictum of ‘experts on tap, not on top’ was forgotten. My view – as a citizen, not as a Professor of Medical Microbiology – is that this should never have happened. Government is to govern; Parliament to scrutinise and expert committees to provide advice.

But, if Government is to subcontract its functions to unelected technocrats, these should include a range of specialities. SAGE is completely dominated by modellers, behaviourists, and public health medicine, with a single fixation on COVID. They say that it isn’t their remit to consider the wider societal effects of their advice.

Handing control of anything complex, let alone a country, to monomaniacs is generally unwise.

We’ve included David’s piece in a new section on the right-hand menu called “The Public Inquiry”. I expect we’ll be publishing a great number of pieces under this heading in the near future.

Worth reading in full.

Sweden Was Right to Avoid Lockdowns But Wrong Not to Impose Restrictions and Masks Sooner, Inquiry Concludes

Sweden’s official inquiry into its handling of the pandemic is a mixed bag. On the one hand, it comes out firmly against lockdowns – understood as stay-at-home orders – and affirms the decision not to close schools. On the other hand, it criticises the Government for not being quicker to restrict indoor meeting spaces such as shops and restaurants, to bring in masks, and for relying too much on the advice of its Public Health Agency, including Anders Tegnell, the State Epidemiologist – despite it being his advice to swim against the flow and resist lockdown. The Telegraph has the story.

Recurring lockdowns imposed across Europe to curb COVID-19 were neither “necessary” nor “defensible”, Sweden’s official inquiry into its handling of the pandemic has concluded.

In its final report, the country’s Coronavirus Commission strongly supported Sweden’s pandemic strategy, concluding that the decision to rely primarily on “advice and recommendations which people were expected to follow voluntarily” had been “fundamentally correct”.

The decision not to impose mandatory restrictions meant that Swedes “retained more of their personal freedom than in many other countries,” the report concludes.

In addition, the commission writes that it is “not convinced that extended or recurring mandatory lockdowns, as introduced in other countries, are a necessary element in the response to a new, serious epidemic outbreak”.

Several countries which did impose lockdowns, it notes, had “significantly worse outcomes” than Sweden, while the restriction of individual freedom was “hardly defensible other than in the face of very extreme threats”.

So far so good. But it goes on to say that measures were “too few and should have come sooner”.

Sunday Times Changes Tune on Covid Restrictions

The Sunday Times has a long analytical piece today about how Britain beat Covid – a combination of vaccines, natural immunity and luck, apparently. The paper’s Data Projects Editor, Tom Calver, says one contributory factor was the Government’s decision to lift all restrictions on July 19th of last year, thereby ensuring that by the time we faced an Autumn wave many people who’d been infected and recovered over the summer had natural immunity:

About 22 million have caught it since July 19th, 2021 — England’s ‘freedom day’, when many Covid restrictions were removed. Britain was one of the few countries to maintain relatively high infection rates throughout 2021, yet hospital admissions never breached unsafe levels.

There were other reasons for opening up when we did. A supporter at the time, Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, said: “Leaving step four until the autumn carried a far greater risk. Delaying the opening of society would have pushed back more infections into the autumn, at a time when pressures on the health service may have been greater.

“There is a real case for the argument that opening society when we did and the resulting infection rates enabled us to avoid a big surge in hospitalisations and deaths this winter.”

What Calver neglects to mention is that the Sunday Times has been one of the biggest supporters of Covid restrictions.

Take this story, which the paper ran on July 18th, the day before restrictions were lifted: “Johnson swelters over ‘freedom day’ mayhem“. It begins:

Britain faces disruption to food supplies, transport networks and industry as COVID-19’s third wave intensifies, hours before Boris Johnson is set to lift most pandemic restrictions.

One of Britain’s largest retailers warned of “major disruption” that could leave gaps on shelves, while parts of the London Underground closed yesterday because of the number of staff instructed to self-isolate.

Then there was the notorious Sunday Times Insight Team report on Boris Johnson’s apparent failure to lockdown sooner and harder – “38 days when Britain sleepwalked into disaster” – an article that helped to frame the debate over whether to lockdown again and which, arguably, increased the pressure on the Government to impose further unnecessary lockdowns in November 2020 and January 2021. Indeed, that was probably the intention of the paper’s key source – described as “a senior adviser to Downing Street” and almost certainly Dominic Cummings. Here is an extract:

One day there will be an inquiry into the lack of preparations during those “lost” five weeks from January 24th. There will be questions about when politicians understood the severity of the threat, what the scientists told them and why so little was done to equip the National Health Service for the coming crisis. It will be the politicians who will face the most intense scrutiny.

Among the key points likely to be explored are why it took so long to recognise an urgent need for a massive boost in supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers; ventilators to treat acute respiratory symptoms; and tests to detect the infection.

Any inquiry may also ask whether the Government’s failure to get to grips with the scale of the crisis in those early days had the knock-on effect of the national lockdown being introduced days or even weeks too late, causing many thousands more unnecessary deaths.

We have talked to scientists, academics, doctors, emergency planners, public officials and politicians about the root of the crisis and whether the Government should have known sooner and acted more swiftly to kick-start the Whitehall machine and put the NHS onto a war footing.

When that inquiry does eventually come, I hope it doesn’t confine itself to the terms of reference that – until recently – the Sunday Times has been pushing for: Why didn’t our bumbling Prime Minister lock down sooner and harder in 2020? A proper inquiry would look at the role of the mainstream media, and papers like the Sunday Times, in enthusiastically supporting what we now know to be the most catastrophic policy in Britain’s history.

PM to Appoint Chair of Public Inquiry into Government’s Handling of Covid by Christmas

After meeting members of the Covid Bereaved Families for Justice on Tuesday – far too late, according to the group – the Prime Minister has signalled that he will appoint a Chair for the public inquiry into his Government’s response to Covid by Christmas. Whoever is appointed, it is likely that the inquiry will focus on questions that presume ministers were right to lock the country down in the first place (e.g. “Did we lock down too late?”, not “Did the costs of lockdown outweigh the benefits?”). Sky News has the story.

In May, [the Prime Minister] announced an independent public inquiry into the Government’s handling of the pandemic will begin in the spring of next year.

“Although we wish this meeting had taken place a long time ago, we’re pleased that the Prime Minister has chosen to finally engage with us and that he explicitly acknowledged the importance of ensuring that bereaved families are at the heart of learning lessons from the pandemic,” the group said in a statement after the meeting.

“However, we are still disappointed by the lack of urgency the Prime Minister displayed as we see no reason why preparations for the inquiry cannot begin now, particularly as nearly 1,000 people are still losing their lives each week.”

They said Mr. Johnson must deliver on his commitments, adding: “We hope that we can accept the Prime Minister’s commitments in good faith and, going forward, that there will be ongoing and meaningful dialogue with bereaved families.”

The group had asked for the meeting to be held outside with social distancing in place.

A Downing Street spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister gave a commitment that the Chair of the inquiry would be appointed by Christmas.

“He set out that for now it is right that public servants continue to focus their efforts on tackling the pandemic before moving on to the inquiry in the spring of next year.

“He welcomed the opportunity to hear from Bereaved Families for Justice on the areas they would like the inquiry to cover and the importance of choosing the right chair and panel members, and reiterated that he takes full responsibility for the Government’s handling of the pandemic.

Worth reading in full.

Boris Promises a Full Public Inquiry Into the Government’s Handling of Covid Before the End of This Parliamentary Session

Boris Johnson has been pushed into promising a full public inquiry into the Government’s handling of Covid and says that one will begin before the end of this parliamentary session. MailOnline has the story.

The Prime Minister firmed up his commitment to an early probe into the crisis as he was grilled by MPs about the Queen’s Speech plans.

Up to now, Mr Johnson has seemed unwilling to give a timetable, pointing out that ministers and officials are focused on the response to the disease.

But Sir Keir Starmer and other opposition parties have insisted that an inquiry should start immediately to learn lessons.

In the Commons, Liberal Democrat Leader Sir Ed Davey urged Mr Johnson to set up an inquiry “on behalf of bereaved families across the country”.

Mr Johnson replied: “I can certainly say that we will do that within this session.” …

“I have made that clear before… I do believe it’s essential we have a full, proper public inquiry into the Covid pandemic.”

Although there is no fixed length for a parliamentary session, they typically run for around a year…

A full public inquiry would be likely to take many years to complete.

To date, most of the calls for an inquiry made by those in the media and political classes have focussed on the idea that the Government was too slow to introduce the first lockdown. Whether or not the inquiry will look at the impact of lockdowns on Covid mortality, other diseases, mental health, education and the economy – as Recovery suggests – has yet to be seen. I won’t be holding my breath.

The MailOnline report is worth reading in full.

Stop Press: The Prime Minister has announced that an independent public inquiry into the Government’s handling of Covid will begin in the spring of next year.

Stop Press 2: Julia Hartley-Brewer has stressed that “the key issue in the public inquiry… must not be whether Boris Johnson locked down too late in spring 2020 but whether he should have locked down *at all*”.