Wales

The Religious Faith of European leaders in Vaccines Will End in the Imprisonment of the Unvaccinated

I’ve written a comment piece for Mail+ about the failure of vaccine passports and other restrictions on the unvaccinated to avert a Winter Covid crisis in Europe. The logic of the policy seems to be based on a wildly inflated estimate of the effectiveness of the vaccines – but instead of abandoning it when it clearly isn’t working, European governments just keep doubling down. Here is an extract:

In spite of the overwhelming evidence that vaccine passports are ineffective, a majority of the public still want the Government to bring them in. In a poll published yesterday, 58% of English adults said they’d support banning people from bars, restaurants and other public venues if they can’t produce evidence they’ve been double-jabbed or recently tested negative.

The reason for this may be because most people still think of the Covid vaccines as being more effective than they really are. When they were first rolled out, we were assured they offered almost complete protection against the virus.

“You’re not going to get Covid if you have these vaccinations,” said Joe Biden.

“Vaccinated people do not carry the virus, don’t get sick,” said Dr Rochelle Walensky, a Director of the Centres for Disease Control.

“When people are vaccinated, they can feel safe that they are not going to get infected,” said Dr Anthony Fauci.

We now know that isn’t true. Vaccinated people can still catch COVID-19 and pass it on. The evidence suggests they are less likely to become severely ill or die for the disease, but even those benefits wear off over time, which is why the Government is urging people to get the booster.

If vaccinated people can transmit the virus, what is the point of banning the unvaccinated from bars, restaurants and other public places? You might as well ban people with ginger hair for all the good it will do.

Worth reading in full.

Welsh Cinema Shut Down After Refusing to Impose Vaccine Passports Receives Over £45,000 in Donations in Less Than 48 Hours

Cinema & Co., the Welsh cinema that was shut down for 28 days yesterday after refusing to comply with the Welsh Government’s rules on vaccine passports, has raised over £45,000 via a crowdfunder.

If you want to support this independently-run business and make sure it can survive its forced closure, donate here. I’ve bunged in £10.

Let’s get it to over £100,000 by the end of the weekend.

Big Brother Watch Launches Legal Challenge Against Covid Passports in Wales

The campaign group Big Brother Watch has launched a legal challenge against mandatory Covid passes in Wales, calling for the “authoritarian, invasive and unevidenced” scheme to be scrapped. The group’s website has more.

The non-profit group’s legal challenge comes as the Welsh government is extending domestic requirements for Covid passes for people to access cinemas and theatres, as well as nightclubs, concerts, and larger events. Big Brother Watch joined local businesses in criticising the expansion, calling it “safety theatre that does nothing for public health but unfairly burdens businesses and excludes citizens”.

Big Brother Watch’s pre-action letter, sent to the Welsh government today, maintains that no evidence has been provided that the mandatory use of Covid passes will benefit the public health and that the “disproportionate” scheme breaches the right to privacy, protected by the Human Rights Act.

In particular, Big Brother Watch draws attention to advice from SAGE and the Welsh Technical Advisory Cell issued before the introduction of mandatory Covid passes to Wales, which outlined risks of the scheme causing ethical issues and unintended harms such as vaccine distrust and warned that there may be no net benefit to a scheme. Furthermore, the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee in Westminster analysed Covid certification in detail and concluded that there is “no justification for them in the science and none in logic”.

However, First Minister Mark Drakeford pushed ahead with the scheme following a snap vote in October, which was narrowly won despite unanimous rejection by opposition parties.

Big Brother Watch is leading the campaign against mandatory Covid passes across the UK, and is backed by thousands of members of the public who have collectively raised over £170,000 via Crowdfunder to support the campaign. 83 MPs and 11 rights groups have signed Big Brother Watch’s pledge against mandatory Covid passes to date.

Silkie Carlo, Big Brother Watch’s Director, says: “Covid passes are internal health passports that are authoritarian, invasive and unevidenced.

“Covid IDs don’t tell you that a person doesn’t have Covid or can’t spread Covid, but do make society less free and less accessible for people.

“Within weeks, this mandatory health ID scheme has already been significantly expanded in absence of an evidence base. This is safety theatre that does nothing for public health but unfairly burdens businesses and excludes citizens.

“There are far more proportionate, effective and inclusive measures to keep people safe and get the country back to normal than excluding healthy people without the right health papers from society. But we can never get back to anything like normal with health ID checks that will inevitably continue to expand.

“We urge the Welsh government to scrap these divisive and discriminatory Covid passes. If they don’t, we will seek to make our case in court.”

Worth reading in full.

Mental And Physical Health of Young Children Damaged by Lockdown, Welsh Study Shows

A survey conducted in 2020 by Cardiff University has uncovered that primary school age children reported a substantial increase in ‘emotional difficulties’ compared with an identical survey conducted two years prior. In addition, those from disadvantaged backgrounds reported having emotional and behavioural problems at twice the rate of wealthier families, with the research also unveiling that, during this period, children were on unhealthier diets as well as getting less exercise. The Guardian has more.

A biennial survey conducted by investigators at Cardiff University found that primary school-age children reported a sharp increase in ‘elevated or clinically significant emotional difficulties’ in early 2021, compared with the same survey conducted in 2019.

The survey between April and June found that 27% of children in year six showed significant emotional difficulties, compared with just 17% in 2019, while reporting little change in behavioural difficulties. Children from poorer backgrounds were nearly twice as likely to report emotional and behavioural difficulties compared to those from affluent families.

Kelly Morgan, a Social Science Research Fellow at Cardiff, said the impact of the pandemic was likely to leave a “lifelong footprint” on the mental health of children as they grew older, based on evidence from previous international studies.

“From our findings, children and their families were extensively affected over the course of the pandemic”, Morgan said. “We know that it was illegal for children to meet others to play at some points, but also that children were deeply concerned about the health of their family and others”.

The survey highlighted the important role schools have played during and after the pandemic. Of the children surveyed, 90% said they felt cared for by their teachers and 80% said there was at least one adult in school they could talk to.

Professor Graham Moore, who led the study, which was funded by the Welsh Government and examined data from 1,863 children in 76 schools, said it showed that good relationships were maintained between teachers and their pupils. “These connections remained consistently strong among the children we surveyed, demonstrating the vital role education professionals have played for young people during the pandemic”.

“It’s plausible that if teachers and support staff hadn’t done such a good job of connecting with their pupils in this way, we would be dealing with an even greater mental health crisis among our children”, Moore said.

The study revealed that in terms of diet and exercise, the 10 and 11 year-olds surveyed were ‘consistently less healthy’ during the pandemic than in previous years. The proportion of children eating daily portions of vegetables dropped from 52% in 2019 to 41% in 2021, while those eating fruit every day dropped from 59% to 47%.

Worth reading in full.

Mark Drakeford Tells the Welsh Hospitality Industry to Prepare for Vaccine Passports

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford has declared that vaccine passports may be imposed on the hospitality industry, along with the return of work from home mandates, to tackle an increase in the number of Covid hospital admissions. The Welsh Government also wishes to introduce vaccine passports to cinemas, theatres, and concert halls from November 15th. The MailOnline has the story.

Speaking on Sky News, Drakeford said: “We have to make a concerted effort over the next three weeks to bring those numbers down.”

It comes as Wales is set to tighten Covid restrictions to tackle a rising number of hospital admissions, with more than 680 people in Welsh hospitals with Covid on October 27th. 

Positive case numbers have also been at their highest recorded total since the pandemic began this month, although numbers have dipped in recent days to fewer than 2,600. 

Official data showed England recorded 33,903 new infections, 2,153 cases were confirmed in Scotland, while 2,664 were spotted in Wales and 1,122 in Northern Ireland. Cases appear to be trending downwards in all four nations. 

And the number of people going to hospital who were infected with Covid seems to be plateauing. Some 962 sought NHS care on Sunday — the most recent day the data is available for — a rise of 0.3% on the 959 patients admitted last week.

Meanwhile, 165 people died within 28 days of testing positive for the virus, a jump of 43.5% on the 115 deaths recorded on the same day last week.

Despite cases trending downwards and No10’s modellers estimating there will be just 5,000 daily cases over the festive period, the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said the UK is still in a “very uncertain phase'” of the pandemic and warned ‘Plan B’ should not be taken off the table.

Within Wales, adults who are fully vaccinated, and young people aged five to 17, will be asked to self-isolate until they have received a negative PCR test if someone in their household has symptoms or tests positive for Covid.

People who are not vaccinated will still have to self-isolate for 10 days following contact with someone who has tested positive, including close contacts outside of their household.

Asked what more could be done, Mr Drakeford told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We can certainly extend the Covid pass into other settings. 

“We will be talking to hospitality over the next three weeks to help them to prepare, should that be necessary. We hope it won’t be, of course.

“We will go back to the risk assessments we carry out in the workplace to see whether there is more we can do, more people working from home, back to social distancing in the workplace, looking at the way that schools are organised to try to prevent more young people from contracting the disease.

“The current level of restrictions in Wales are the lowest they have been since coronavirus began. I want it to stay that way, to keep Wales safe, to keep Wales open”.

Worth reading in full.

Wales Rolls Out Vaccine Passports After Botched Vote

The Welsh Government has introduced a Covid status certification scheme for nightclubs and large indoor and outdoor events in spite of only securing approval for it in the Senedd by one vote after a Conservative MS was unable to connect via Zoom. Had the vote been tied, the scheme would not have been introduced. Unfortunately, the report on BBC News about the Welsh Covid Pass neglects to mention this fact and – even more bizarrely – fails to point out that being double jabbed only marginally reduces your chances of becoming infected or infecting others. On the contrary, it quotes people saying how relieved they are that they’ll now be ‘safe’ from infection at football stadiums and the like.

Lidi Staffurth is one of thousands of people who have been shielding during the pandemic due to a condition which makes them extremely vulnerable to COVID-19.

She said Covid passes would help reassure people who might feel uncertain about attending large events, adding she felt she had her “freedom back”.

Ms Staffurth labelled it a “brilliant idea”, not least because there are three young people in her family.

“If they’re in large groups then we’ll know they’re around people who are double vaccinated, or at least free from Covid,” she said.

“I think it’s a fantastic idea and for a society at large it means people are looking after each other.

“I think some young people just don’t care – they’ve had it with Covid, and I think we’ve all had it with Covid – but they live in their own little bubble and they don’t really see beyond that bubble a lot.

“And that’s fair enough, but it means with a Covid pass they’re made to consider that.”

The rugby game between Wales and New Zealand at the Principality Stadium on October 30th will be one of the first sporting events where attendees are required to produce a Covid Pass before being admitted.

Welsh Government Pushing Ahead with Vaccine Passports despite Compromised Vote

Democracy is very much not in action in Wales, where the Labour Government has rejected calls for another vote on the introduction of vaccine passport checks at nightclubs and other ‘large’ venues after a Tory MS (opposed to the plans) was unable to vote because of a Zoom error. Had his vote been counted, the scheme would not have been able to pass through the Senedd.

First Minister Mark Drakeford has dismissed concerns regarding liberty, describing vaccine passports as nothing other than a “simple measure which will help to keep people safe from coronavirus”. The Guardian has the story.

The Conservative member Gareth Davies was trying to vote remotely against the scheme but failed to connect to the debating chamber in Cardiff via Zoom, allowing the Labour-led Government to win the vote 28-27.

Representatives of clubs and bars are calling for the vote to be re-run but the Government said the new law, which will make holding a Covid pass compulsory for people to get into venues including nightclubs and major sporting events, would come into force.

The Welsh First Minister, Mark Drakeford, said the vote was an “extraordinary” moment, but added: “The way the vote is conducted is not for the government, that is for the parliament. It is members’ responsibilities to make sure they are in the chamber or on Zoom.”

Speaking to the BBC, he said: “What was really extraordinary was the fact that opposition parties were not prepared to support this simple measure which will help to keep people safe from coronavirus.”

The Welsh Government says the measure, due to come into force on Monday, is needed because of rising Covid rates, especially among young people. …

None of the opposition parties have said they feel the vote ought to be re-run.

Worth reading in full.

Welsh Senedd Passes Vaccine Passports Plans as Zoom Error Prevents Tory MS from Casting Vote

The Welsh Government’s plans to introduce vaccine passport checks in nightclubs and other ‘large’ venues have passed through the Senedd after a Zoom failure prevented a Tory MS from casting his ‘no’ vote. WalesOnline has the story.

Welsh Labour’s high profile policy had seemed set for a humiliating defeat with all three opposition parties pledging to vote against it meaning the vote would have been tied. A tied vote would have left the decision with Presiding Officer Elin Jones who would have been obliged not to allow new legislation onto the statue books.

However Tory MS Gareth Davies, who was joining the meeting remotely, was unable to get onto Zoom to cast his vote. Labour’s Covid passes plan passed by 28 votes to 27.

The chamber, which is sitting in a hybrid format with some of the 60 members present and some attending remotedly, could hear an intervention by MS Darren Millar on behalf of his colleague Mr Davies, the MS for Vale of Clwyd. Mr. Millar was told by the Presiding Officer that all attempts to get him onto the relevant software had taken place.

It means this vote – which introduces new regulations to all people who live in Wales – was passed simply because of a Zoom error. The relief on the faces of the Government and First Minister was clear to see. …

After the result, a spokeswoman for the Night Time Industries Association Wales said: “The NTIA has long campaigned against the introduction of Covid Passports due to the operational barriers these measures will cause. We were pleased to see the number of MSs that listened to our concerns today and voted against these proposals.

“It is a democratic outrage that one MS who wanted to vote, and who would’ve voted against the proposals, could not, due to a mere technical error. This shambles will cause even more uncertainty for our businesses.

“There must be an urgent revote so that the will of the Senedd can be fairly expressed and businesses have some clarity about the future.”

Worth reading in full.

Wales to Introduce Vaccine Passport Checks at Nightclubs and Large Events Next Month

Vaccine passports may have been ruled out in England (for now), but the Welsh will be forced to prove they have been vaccinated or recently tested negative for Covid to get into nightclubs and ‘large events’ from next month. Sky News has the story.

From October 11th, anyone over 18 will have to show either an NHS Covid pass proving their vaccine status or a negative test result in order to enter nightclubs, indoor non-seated events for more than 500 people, outdoor non-seated events for more than 4,000 people, and any event with more than 10,000 attendees.

The Welsh Government said the measure is being introduced to help reduce the spread of coronavirus as infection rates reach “high levels” in the country.

A Covid pass shows if a person has been fully vaccinated and also if someone has had a negative lateral flow test within the past 48 hours.

A nightclub trade body had warned First Minister Mark Drakeford that Covid certificates would have a “hugely detrimental impact on trade, and would result in some of the hardest-hit Welsh businesses losing out to those in England”.

In a letter to the First Minister, Benjamin Newby from the Night Time Industries Association added: “With no criteria to identify ‘nightclubs’, and with local authorities differing in licensing conditions, any implementation of vaccine certification will be inevitably arbitrary.”

He warned there would be confrontations between staff and annoyed customers, and potential fraud.

The Lib Dems and Conservatives in the Senedd also expressed concerns and called on ministers to not implement the scheme.

Mr Drakeford has also encouraged everyone to work from home if possible and make sure they are fully vaccinated, but said the alert level will remain at zero for the next three weeks.

Worth reading in full.

Face Masks to Stay in Wales After Lockdown Easing

Wales will not be joining England in ending mask-wearing rules when it reaches Step Four of its roadmap out of lockdown, the Welsh Executive has announced. Restrictions will continue on public transport – and possibly even in retail – “to help keep us all safe”. BBC News has the story.

[The Welsh Executive] said if Wales moved from “Alert Level One” to “Zero”, coverings would still be mandatory on public transport and in health and social care settings.

It added a decision was yet to be made on mandating face masks in shops. …

Education Minister Jeremy Miles wrote to all schools in Wales on Friday to say wearing face coverings in the classroom will no longer be recommended from September.

Wales is currently at Alert Level One, which means face coverings are mandatory in all indoor public places.

The Welsh Government’s next 21-day review of the coronavirus regulations is due to take place on Wednesday.

It has been under pressure to announce a date for ending Covid restrictions after England announced a target of July 19th, and Scotland said it planned to lift remaining legal restrictions on August 9th.

The Welsh Government said Wednesday’s review would “set out whether restrictions can be relaxed in some indoor places, including people’s homes”.

Meanwhile, ministers are due to publish an updated Coronavirus Control Plan, setting out what will happen once Wales moves into Alert Level Zero.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “We will need everyone’s help to keep coronavirus under control as we continue to respond to the pandemic – this virus has quite certainly not gone away.

“We know many people are still worried and anxious about going out. We will maintain the requirement to wear face coverings in certain places – on public transport and health and social care settings, and others where necessary – to help keep us all safe.”

Worth reading in full.