Testing

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.

Nose Bleeds, Choking, Fainting, Death: The Hundreds of Injuries Brits Have Reported From Covid Tests

Hundreds of Britons reported injuries from getting tested for Covid, official data show. MailOnline has the story.

Dozens say they’ve fainted or choked while swabbing, while others have complained about nose bleeds and hot flashes. Drug regulators tasked with policing the safety of virus tests have logged over 3,000 reports of harm throughout the pandemic.

The figures, obtained by MailOnline through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, are only a “snapshot”, however. Thousands more people will have hurt themselves while using lateral flows or taking swabs because not everyone reports their experiences, experts say. And the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, the body in charge of safety monitoring, also insist the swabs won’t have definitely been to blame in the few cases that have been logged.

In a similar fashion to how side effects from the Covid vaccines are tracked, officials ask everyone to record any incidents that occur from getting tested. The MHRA encourages people to report any safety concerns with the tests and give feedback, such as if it is damaged or components are missing. It then investigates any serious problems and logs them, to prevent similar incidents in the future. 

More than 500million tests have been conducted in the U.K. since the start of the Covid pandemic, with the now-axed scheme costing up to £2bn per month at the height of the Omicron wave.

At least 3,443 complaints were logged about Covid tests by April 7th, according to the MHRA data. Of these, 1,013 complaints were logged about lateral flow swabs. At least 177 said they suffered “minor” harm when using the tests, while between 39 and 69 reported “serious” harm. Uncertainty around the figures – collected monthly – are due to the watchdog not providing exact numbers when fewer than five people report a specific type of incident.

The vast majority of complaints did not give sufficient information about the harms caused by tests. But allergic reactions to components of the test and choking were the most common incidents reported.  Britons also complained of headaches, a bleeding nose, respiratory tract infections, sore throats, hot flushes, skin inflammation and swelling. Between one and four deaths were logged.

The MHRA said the reporting of an adverse testing incident in its database “does not necessarily mean the events described were caused by that medical device”. The agency added that it “could be due to unrelated patient/user factors”.

A spokesperson said: “The information we hold on our database is not a full picture of all the device-related incidents that happened during this period, it is just a snapshot. It’s not compulsory for healthcare professionals and members of the public to report incidents directly to MHRA, but we strongly encourage this.”

Meanwhile, 2,430 people made a complaint to the watchdog after taking a PCR test. Of these reports, at least 261 logged minor harms, while 78 reported serious harm. The harms reported included allergic reactions, choking and nose bleeding. Britons also said they suffered sore throats, loss of consciousness and “emotional changes” after taking PCR tests. A handful of cases of asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – a lung condition that causes breathing difficulties – and joint dislocation were also logged with the MHRA, along with sneezing and vomiting. And between three and 12 deaths were reported to the MHRA that members of the public linked with PCR tests.   

Worth reading in full.

Warnings of a Workplace Sickness “Free For All” as NHS Expands Covid Symptom List and Workers Advised to “Stay at Home” When Unwell

The Government’s scrapping of free Covid tests combined with an expansion to the NHS list of symptoms will trigger a “free for all” of staff absences, experts have warned. MailOnline has more.

The vast majority of employees in England are now unable to get any free swabs as part of Boris Johnson’s “Living With Covid” strategy.  

But health chiefs advise people to “stay at home” if they have any of the 12 newly-recognised symptoms, which can be “very similar” to ones brought on by colds or the flu.

It means, in the absence of a test, people suffering cold-like symptoms will be left to decide “whether or not they stay at home and for how long”, unions say.

Lucy Moreton, a professional officer at the ISU, the union for borders, immigration and customs, warned that it is “inevitable” staff will be off work with mild symptoms if they are unable to confirm whether or not they have Covid.

Unions also fear the chaos will only drive transmission up, with Covid levels already at a pandemic high in England and one in 12 people thought to be currently infected.

Only the elderly, most vulnerable and health and social care workers can access tests for free. Tests are, however, available at high street retailers such as Boots for £2. 

England’s mass swabbing regime – thought to cost up to £2billion-a-month – was ditched under Boris Johnson’s “Living With Covid” strategy.

It marked one of the final steps on the route back to normal life, after mandatory self-isolation rules were scrapped in mid-February.

Workers who test positive no longer have to legally self-isolate, although they are still advised to “stay at home and avoid contact with other people”. The NHS also says that they should take “extra care” to avoid making contact with anyone at higher risk of the virus. 

NHS Covid advice also says: “You can go back to your normal activities when you feel better or do not have a high temperature.'”

Worth reading in full.

The Terrible Cost of Mass Testing of Children

There follows a guest post by Child and Adolescent Clinical Psychologist Dr. Zenobia Storah, Professor of Psychology Ellen Townsend, Clinical Professor of Public Health Allyson Pollock and Psychotherapist Sarah Waters, who say children were subjected to all manner of unevidenced and harmful interventions during the pandemic, not least of which was frequent testing, and we must now prioritise their recovery and ensure it never happens again.

Twice-weekly asymptomatic testing for COVID-19 was introduced in secondary schools in the U.K. in January 2021. Although guidance was specific to secondary education, many primary schools, nurseries and pre-schools also requested routine testing of children in their care. Regular self-testing by students has also been required at colleges and universities.

In the last month, the Government removed its testing advice for staff and pupils in most schools. We welcome this change. Mass testing has been harmful for many, especially for children. Indeed, experts have cautioned against asymptomatic mass testing. The lack of evidence on impact on transmission, high costs, and likely diversion of resources from important activities such as mental health support have all been cited. Incredibly, even though mass testing is screening, the U.K. Government ignored the Wilson and Junger 1968 principles of screening and never sought the advice of the National Screening Committee. We are not aware of any evidence-base for this policy or any risk assessment regarding potential psychological or physical harms.

Swabbing for either PCR or lateral flow devices (LFDs) is an unpleasant and invasive procedure that is distressing to children. In October 2020, when testing was introduced in Italian schools, paediatricians raised concerns about the risks posed by nasopharyngeal swabs, including the breakage of the swab with subsequent inhalation and possible injury to the nasal, oral and pharyngeal mucosa. Subsequently questions were raised in the European Parliament. Disappointingly there has been little interest in such concerns from professionals and policy-makers in the U.K.

Iceland Lifts All Restrictions, Says it Wants “As Many People as Possible” to Catch Covid

After almost two years of restrictions aimed at curbing the transmission of COVID-19, the Icelandic Government finally announced on Wednesday that all restrictions, including all testing and restrictions at the borders, will be lifted at midnight on Friday, February 25th.

The Minister for Healthcare, Willum Thor Thorsson, said that with the current level of infections, continued restrictions are useless. “Restrictions do not have any effect at this point in time,” he said. The Health Ministry also said the way to end the pandemic is herd immunity through infections, and it wants “as many people as possible” to be infected to achieve “widespread societal resistance”. Vaccines will not provide the necessary immunity.

Over the past weeks and months, mask mandates and strict limitations on gatherings have been in place, while infections have surged and the restrictions seem to have had no effect on transmission.

Mass Testing of Children is “Harmful, Invasive and Unevidenced” and Needs to Stop, Scientists Tell MPs

The mass testing of healthy children is “invasive and unevidenced”, causes significant damage to children and needs to stop, scientists and clinicians have told MPs and Peers.

The comments came at a meeting of the Pandemic Response and Recovery All-Party Parliamentary Group of cross-party MPs, which was hearing whether there is a case for the continued mass testing of healthy children by schools and nurseries.

Co-chaired by Conservative MP Esther McVey and Labour MP Graham Stringer, the group examined the pros and cons of testing in schools along with the growing concerns about the likely physical and mental health harms caused by constant testing.

Ms McVey said the evidence they heard is clear and “testing in schools must stop”.

The announcement made by the Prime Minister that face coverings no longer need to be worn in schools from January 27th was very welcome. However, children are still routinely being asked to take tests, even primary school children, which goes against Government guidance, regardless of whether they have symptoms. The threat of school closures may have been lifted but hundreds of thousands of children are still missing yet more schooling thanks to constant testing and the requirement for healthy children to isolate. We know children are not drivers of transmission. The evidence presented by our experts found no benefits to mass testing. Instead there is disruption, harm and distress caused and two years on we have no robust randomised control trials for the benefits of mass testing of healthy school children.

The evidence we have heard is clear. Testing in schools must stop, especially in the absence of any sort of study on the impact it has on our children’s physical and mental health. Evidence sessions such as this one are so important, to allow us to get a full picture before we make a decision and put our case to the Government.

Co-chair Graham Stringer said the “eye-watering sums” spent on testing would have been much better spent elsewhere.

Vaccination, Masks, Two Weeks of Quarantine and Three Negative Tests Fail to Keep Covid Off Island

The Daily Sceptic reported recently on the plight of Kiribati, a remote island nation in the Pacific Ocean with a population of around 122,000, which until two weeks ago had avoided having any cases of COVID-19 at all, but following an outbreak has now imposed its first lockdown. What we didn’t know then is the detail of the extremely strict protocols the virus circumvented.

Not only were all 54 passengers on the flight fully vaccinated, masked, and tested negative for Covid three times in nearby Fiji before arrival, they had also been in pre-departure quarantine for two weeks before the flight, and were put in quarantine with additional testing when they arrived.

Despite this, two-thirds of the passengers (36 of 54) tested positive for Covid after arriving from Fiji on January 15th. This has led to the island’s first outbreak, which as of January 31st consists of 460 reported infections (and no deaths) and, despite the lockdown, is growing fast.

Kiribati declared a state of disaster and imposed the lockdown on January 22nd. A third of Kiribati citizens are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Paul Sacca on the Blaze notes there was a similar situation last month in Antarctica, when “nearly two-thirds of the research staff based at the Princess Elisabeth Polar Station became infected with COVID-19 despite strict health protocols in place. The workers at the Princess Elisabeth Polar Station were also fully vaccinated, took multiple PCR tests, and quarantined before arriving at the research facility”.

While the episode illustrates once more how hard it is to keep out a highly contagious respiratory virus, it also raises questions about how it got through. It’s hard to discern what exactly happened. How, after weeks of quarantine and multiple tests did a plane rock up at the airport and two thirds of passengers go on to test positive? Did one passenger have a strangely long incubation period and infect the others on the flight? Or was there some laxness in the application of the rules?

Either way, it underlines the pointlessness of restrictions on travel, including testing, privileges for the vaccinated and the requirement to mask, which are just costly inconveniences that deter travel and achieve nothing.

Stop Press: Ryanair has said it expects masks on flights to remain for years to come as “a small price to pay” to avoid other restrictions. Depressing stuff.

Wales and Scotland Loosen Restrictions – But Very, Very Slowly

Wales abandoned its tough stance on Covid today as its self-isolation period was cut to five days in the face of plummeting reported infections, while Scotland axed work-from-home guidance. MailOnline has more.

From Friday [in Wales] people will be able to end their isolation as long as they have two negative lateral flow tests on days five and six.

Health Minister Eluned Morgan confirmed the changes would come into force from January 28th, the same day the country is expected to complete the move to alert level zero.

It will bring the nation in line with the measures already in place in England and Northern Ireland.

And it comes the day after Nicola Sturgeon drastically softened Scotland’s Covid rules, including ending working from home guidance. …

Scottish First Minister Sturgeon bowed to pressure to axe working from home rules last night as she revealed a ‘phased’ return to the office for millions of Scots. 

She told MSPs the Scottish Government is updating its guidance to take effect from next Monday.  

Ms Sturgeon has said a requirement for two-metre physical distancing in settings where face coverings are exempt is being reduced to one metre.

The change will apply to settings such as religious services and those carrying out receptionist duties.

Updating MSPs at Holyrood yesterday, the First Minister also announced a change affecting organised activities for children.

She said: “From Friday, face coverings will no longer be required for any adult taking part in organised activities when they are directly interacting with children under the age of five.”

The requirement for secondary school pupils to wear face masks will receive “careful consideration”.

Slow progress in the right direction, but still struggling to let go it seems.

Worth reading in full.

Government Scraps Covid Tests for Travel – But Only For the Vaccinated, Despite Government Data Showing the Vaccinated Have Higher Infection Rates

Holidaymakers who are double-vaccinated will no longer have to take any Covid tests for travel abroad, Boris Johnson has said. The Telegraph has more.

Speaking on a visit to a hospital, the Prime Minister said that day two lateral flow tests – which are currently required for fully vaccinated people entering the U.K. – would be ditched, saving a family of four around £120. The changes are expected to come into effect at 4am on February 11th.

It follows the ending of pre-departure and PCR tests for vaccinated travellers earlier this month and will be seen as a major filip for the travel industry in advance of the February half-term break. …

Holiday firms have already reported a surge in bookings for half term after the easing of restrictions and in anticipation of further lifting of curbs.

Speaking ahead of a Covid-O cabinet committee meeting on Monday, Mr Johnson said the country was moving through the Omicron wave and “things are starting to get better”.

“On travel, to show the country is open for business, we will see changes that people no longer have to take tests if they are double-vaccinated,” he said during his visit to Milton Keynes University Hospital in Buckinghamshire. …

Bookings to all holiday destinations have already jumped by 67% on average compared with December 2021, according to analysts Skyscanner.

Some international and long-haul beach and sun destinations are seeing demand return to levels above that in 2019 before the pandemic, according to the company.

The destinations with the fastest growing bookings are Maldives (up 125%), Mexico (up 110%), Costa Rica (72%), Colombia (48%), and Tanzania (39%).

Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said: “When it happens, it will be a terrific boost for the travel sector and crucially for consumers. It will mean cheaper holidays and business trips and the end of the testing nightmare the industry has faced for nearly two years.”

But why only the double-vaccinated? Nobody now pretends that two vaccine doses provides any kind of protection against Omicron infection. The UKHSA estimates vaccine effectiveness of two doses against Omicron after six months of just 0-10%. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla has stated that two doses are “not enough for Omicron… We have seen with a second dose very clearly that the first thing that we lost was the protection against infections”. Government data show infection rates in the double vaccinated have been considerably higher than in the unvaccinated across most age groups for some months. Where then is the evidence behind this continued restriction on the unvaccinated? It has no scientific basis, plainly is now solely to add coercive pressure to the unvaccinated to get the jab, and should be dropped.

Worth reading in full.

Pre-School Tyranny

There follows a guest post by a Daily Sceptic reader, who wishes to remain anonymous, about the borderline child abuse they have witnessed being inflicted on children at their child’s nursery owing to the over-zealous application of Covid rules and guidelines. If readers have other stories of the mistreatment of children under Covid rules and guidelines email us here.

Parents with children in nursery care have suffered tremendously with the pandemic. Here is our experience of nurseries in Norfolk. In the first lockdown we were expected to look after our two year old whilst undertaking two full time jobs at home. This was obviously very hard and meant working evenings and weekends to catchup on day jobs. Initially our nursery tried to charge full price for not doing anything. They backed down when they realised they could furlough staff. A discount was given.

In the January 2021 lockdown, with no notice, they reduced the school day by several hours and removed all meals. We had less than 12 hours notice and no reduction in fees. We know from staff at the nursery that they were furloughing staff so that they profited from providing less care.

Needless to say we moved nursery to a better one that provided a better service.

In general we have been happy with the new nursery, however, the Covid idiocy is getting worse.

Even in the summer, parents have to wear masks when they drop their children off outside. I am pretty much the only parent not to do this as it’s clearly stupid and not good for my son to see me masked.

Last week, with less than a day’s notice, we were asked to do a lateral flow test on children (all under-fives). It was worded as a request, but at drop off, it was insisted upon, and if you didn’t have evidence toddlers and babies were swabbed at the door.