And then there is the biggest issue of all: the fact that breaking the rule is a criminal offence. As the Hampstead incident suggests, some police officers are evidently seizing their chance to indulge in the kind of neurotic, unnecessary behaviour that first reared its head at the start of lockdown.As part of a quest for “stronger enforcement of the rules”, Boris Johnson has proposed local “Covid marshals” who will ensure any miscreants do as they are told. Now, there are to be fines of up to £10,000 for people judged to have breached self-isolation rules, and the police will be checking compliance in the “highest incidence areas” and “high-risk groups”, based on “local intelligence”.
…The legislation allows ministers to authorise no end of drastic moves, from much weaker oversight of government surveillance and sectioning powers under the Mental Health Act to the closure of the UK’s borders. Perhaps the most startling section – which Martha Spurrier, the director of the pressure group Liberty, calls “completely wild” – lays out how the police can be rapidly allowed to detain anyone deemed “potentially infectious”, without an upper time limit.
Dear Prime Minister, Chancellor, CMOs and Chief Scientific Adviser
We are writing with the intention of providing constructive input into the choices with respect to the Covid-19 policy response. We also have several concerns regarding aspects of the existing policy choices that we wish to draw attention to.
In summary, our view is that the existing policy path is inconsistent with the known risk-profile of Covid-19 and should be reconsidered. The unstated objective currently appears to be one of suppression of the virus, until such a time that a vaccine can be deployed. This objective is increasingly unfeasible (notwithstanding our more specific concerns regarding existing policies) and is leading to significant harm across all age groups, which likely offsets any benefits.
Instead, more targeted measures that protect the most vulnerable from Covid, whilst not adversely impacting those not at risk, are more supportable. Given the high proportion of Covid deaths in care homes, these should be a priority. Such targeted measures should be explored as a matter of urgency, as the logical cornerstone of our future strategy.
In addition to this overarching point, we append a set of concerns regarding the existing policy choices, which we hope will be received in the spirit in which they are intended. We are mindful that the current circumstances are challenging, and that all policy decisions are difficult ones. Moreover, many people have sadly lost loved ones to Covid-19 throughout the UK. Nonetheless, the current debate appears unhelpfully polarised around views that Covid is extremely deadly to all (and that large-scale policy interventions are effective); and on the other hand, those who believe Covid poses no risk at all. In light of this, and in order to make choices that increase our prospects of achieving better outcomes in future, we think now is the right time to ‘step back’ and fundamentally reconsider the path forward.
Professor Sunetra Gupta; Professor of theoretical epidemiology, the University of Oxford
Professor Carl Heneghan; Director, Centre for Evidence Based Medicine, the University of Oxford
Professor Karol Sikora; Consultant oncologist and Professor of medicine, University of Buckingham
Sam Williams; Director and co-founder of Economic Insight
- ‘Circuit break’ may be a grave error with terrible consequences for the health of the British people and for the health of the country.
- The Government is once again in the grip of doom-mongering scientific modellers who specialise in causing panic.
- The latest reliable data from Spain (up to September 3) which does not indicate any sort of upward curve in infections, let alone one coming to get us here in Britain.
- Anyone with clinical experience of dealing with respiratory viruses knows that the only certainty is uncertainty itself.
- Making comparisons between countries using different national data with different definitions is no more useful than trying to compare apples and pears.
- Latest study shows that nearly a third of all Covid-19 deaths recorded in July and August might have actually been the result of other causes –cancer, for example, or road traffic accidents.
- Sweden has probably suppressed Covid-19 to the same level as Great Britain but without draconian measures.
- Anyone going down with a new respiratory illness is likely to be suffering from a cold – not Covid.
Covid-19 accounts for an average of 11 of the 1,687 deaths in Britain every day, according to official statistics.
|Cause||UK deaths per day|
|Flu and pneumonia||124|
|Accidents at home||16|
I believe I have identified a serious, really a fatal flaw in the PCR test used in what is called by the UK Government the Pillar 2 screening – that is, testing many people out in their communities. I’m going to go through this with care and in detail because I’m a scientist and dislike where this investigation takes me.
…In the last 40 years alone the UK has had seven official epidemics/pandemics; AIDS, Swine flu, CJD, SARS, MERS, Bird flu as well as annual, seasonal flu. All were very worrying but schools remained open and the NHS treated everybody and most of the population were unaffected. The country would rarely have been open if it had been shut down every time.
The former president of the supreme court says parliament “surrendered” its role over emergency laws restricting freedoms amid the coronavirus pandemic, in an intervention expected to embolden MPs threatening a Commons revolt.
- The NHS has not resumed anything like normal service. But the predicted Covid deluge never materialised.
- Current Covid death toll of 41,628 is barely half the total fatalities of the 1968 flu epidemic in the UK.
- Hospital admissions for cancer were down by 36 per cent in April and another 37 per cent in May.
- The State has wildly over-reacted, partly as a result of being in thrall to scientists such as Professor Neil Ferguson with unproven theories and dubious modelling.
- More than 1,600 people die in Britain every day, yet, despite the Government’s scaremongering, the coronavirus daily death toll has been in single or low double figures for weeks.
- The ‘rule of six’ has no scientific evidence to back it up, and may well end up having major social consequences.
- Increased activity at the end of summer leads to an increase in acute respiratory infections, as it does every year.
- Oxford University’s Centre for Evidence Based Medicine: no scientific evidence on the effects of measures such as distancing on respiratory viral spread. No study pointing to the number six. If it’s made up, why not five or seven?
- Admissions for Covid, critical care bed occupancies and deaths are now at an all-time low.
- There are currently 600 patients in hospital with Covid compared to over 17,000 at the height of the epidemic. An average of ten patients a day die with Covid registered on their death certificate, compared to over 1,000 at the peak.
- Shift in focus away from the impact of the disease is a worrying development.
- Severity of the pandemic was monitored by numbers of cases, numbers of admissions, and deaths. All three measures are open to misinterpretation if their definitions are not standardised.
- Cases are being over-diagnosed by a test that can pick up dead viral load.
- Hospital admissions are subjective decisions made by physicians which can vary from hospital to hospital.
- Even deaths have been misattributed.
- Cases will rise, as they will in winter for all acute respiratory pathogens, but this will not necessarily translate into excess deaths.
- Models ignore the vast expertise of our clinicians and public health experts who could provide a more robust approach based on their real-world healthcare experiences.
- The current Cabinet is inexperienced:
- the Health Secretary has been in post for just over two years now;
- the PM and the Chief Medical Officer a year;
- The Joint Biosecurity Centre is overseen by a senior spy who monitors the spread of coronavirus and suppresses new outbreaks;
- New chair of the National Institute for Health Protection who has little or no background in healthcare.
- The recognised alert threshold for ‘regular’ acute respiratory infections is 400 cases per 100,000.
- Britain’s mental health has deteriorated. During lockdown, a fifth of vulnerable people considered self-harming, routine healthcare came to a standstill, operations were cancelled, and cancer care put on hold.
- The most glaring initial blunder was not observing what was going on in other European nations and learning from their mistakes.
- Life should return to as close as possible to normality.
FORCING school children to wear masks is part of a scattergun approach by a government “lacking the political will” to study the actual evidence, a professor warns.
Dr Carl Heneghan said that the mask doctrine came into place even as the deputy chief medical officer admitted there was no strong evidence they would help with the disease. This was despite the social and psychological damage masking pupils would cause, he said. He pointed out that with drug interventions, high quality testing was required before they were implemented.
…He said: “Wearing masks can interfere with social wellbeing. We clearly understand with drugs the need to do proper research on the benefits against the harms before we use them.
This is a huge intervention to impose on society with many unknowns and potentially damaging consequences, but we are not doing the research to justify it.”
The NHS has a “hidden waiting list” of 15.3 million patients who need follow-up appointments for health problems, according to the first analysis of its kind.
The official waiting list, which stands at 3.9 million, shows how many patients are yet to have their first hospital appointment after a GP referral.
However, the total number who are on hospital books in England and need appointments is not collated centrally. A new calculation, based on freedom of information requests to NHS trusts and seen by The Times, puts the figure at 15.3 million.
Although the official waiting list, after initial referral by a GP, has remained at a fairly stable level throughout the pandemic, this has been mainly driven by fewer patients joining it.
Scores of MPs and former ministers have urged the prime minister to tackle a backlog in NHS cancer care that threatens to lead to thousands of early deaths over the next decade.
One senior oncologist has claimed that in a worst-case scenario the effects of the pandemic could result in 30,000 excess cancer deaths over the next decade.
We have consistently (and I’d say flagrantly) over-estimated the threat of Covid-19, starting with the absurd prediction of 500,000 deaths by Imperial College London’s Professor Neil Ferguson. Data experts who later reviewed the computer code used in the professor’s model described it as “a mess which would get you fired in private industry”…
The trashing of the economy, the worst recession in our history, avoidable deaths at home with people too frightened to go to hospital for fear of catching the virus, chaos in education, the explosion in domestic violence, steep rises in anxiety, depression, and heavy drinking?
No. Lockdown will come to be seen as one of the most catastrophic misjudgments a British government has ever made.
The Imperial College study published this morning claiming that 3.4 million people ( six per cent of the UK population) have antibodies indicating that they have been exposed to Covid-19 provides no great revelation. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) has already published similar figures suggesting that 6.5 per cent of the population has been infected. Nevertheless, it is yet more confirmation of how irrelevant are the official statistics for Covid 19 cases – and what a nonsense it is to rely on them for policymaking.
According to the Government’s Covid “dashboard”, updated at 4pm on Wednesday, 313,798 people in Britain have had the disease. This is less than one tenth of the number suggested by the Imperial study. In other words, for all Matt Hancock’s efforts to ramp up testing, the vast majority of cases have not been detected.
Lockdowns may reduce the peak of transmission and recovery rates but not the number of critical cases or overall mortality.
Lastly, government actions such as border closures, full lockdowns, and a high rate of COVID-19 testing were not associated with statistically significant reductions in the number of critical cases or overall mortality.
…full lockdowns and early border closures may lessen the peak of transmission, and thus prevent health system overcapacity, which would facilitate increased recovery rates.
This recent crop of trials added 9,112 participants to the total randomised denominator of 13,259 and showed that masks alone have no significant effect in interrupting the spread of ILI or influenza in the general population, nor in healthcare workers.
The small number of trials and lateness in the pandemic cycle is unlikely to give us reasonably clear answers and guide decision-makers. This abandonment of the scientific modus operandi and lack of foresight has left the field wide open for the play of opinions, radical views and political influence.
2:55 – Masks
• Tom Jefferson: “Aside from people who are exposed on the frontlines, there is no evidence that masks make any difference, but what’s even more extraordinary is the uncertainty: we don’t know if these things make any difference…. We should have done randomised control trials in February, March and April but not anymore because viral circulation is low and we will need huge number of enrolees to show whether there was any difference”.
• Carl Heneghan: “By all means people can wear masks but they can’t say it’s an evidence-based decision… there is a real separation between an evidence-based decision and the opaque term that ‘we are being led by the science’, which isn’t the evidence”.
9:26 – Pandemic life cycle
• CH: “One of the keys of the infection is to look at who’s been infected, which shows a crucial difference when comparing the pandemic theory to seasonal theory. In a pandemic you’d expect to see young people disproportionately affected, but in the UK we’ve only had six child deaths, which is far less than we’d normally see in a pandemic. The high number of deaths with over-75s fits with the seasonal theory”.
14:00 – Covid seasonality
• CH: “The stability of the virus is far less when the temperature goes up but humidity seems to be particularly important. The lower the humidity, the more stable the virus is in the atmosphere and on surfaces… It’s now winter in the southern hemisphere, which is why places like Australia are suddenly having outbreaks.”
20:37 – Lockdown
• CH: “Many people said that we should have locked down earlier, but 50% of care homes developed outbreaks during the lockdown period so there are issues within the transmission of this virus that are not clear… Lockdown is a blunt tool and there needs to be intelligent conversations about what mitigation strategies can keep society functioning while we keep the most vulnerable shielded”.
25:20 – Nightingale hospitals
• CH: “They are the wrong structure. What you need is fever hospitals which were here until around the 1980s or 90s. They were on single floors and had isolation within isolation. Theere were no lift shafts and staff were trained, which meant that everyone was protected from each other… It looks like at leats 20% of people got the infection while they were in hospital”
27:30 – Suppression strategy
• CH: “The benefits of the current strategy are outweighed by the harms…When it comes to suppression, only the virus will have a determination in that. If you follow the New Zealand policy of suppressing it to zero and locking down the country forever, then you’re going to have a problem… This virus is so out there now, I cannot see a strategy that makes suppression the viable option. The strategy right now should be how we learn to live with this virus”
32:45 – Response to the virus
• TJ: “I am a survivor of four pandemics and for the other three, I didn’t even realise they were going on. People died but nothing changed and none of the fabric of society was eroded like this response… Do I see steps being taken at a European level about learning from our mistakes and changing policies? The answer is no…
39:30 – Politics of the virus
• CH: “We as individuals are part of the problem because sensationalism drives people to click and read the information. So it’s a big circle because we’ve created the problem — if we put the worst case scenario out there, we will go and have a look. If you want a solution, you’ve got to get people to stop clicking on this sensationalist stuff”.
43:30 – IFR
• CH: “We will be down about where we were with the swine flu: around 0.1-0.3% which is much lower than what we think because at the moment we are seeing the case fatality”.
• TJ: “If you look at the whole narrative, it was distorted from the very beginning by the obsession with influenza which was just one or two agents and nothing else existed. We’re no different now”.
- Some experts argued that masks would help slow the infection rate.
- Others pointed out that improper use of face masks can amplify risks, for instance by acting as a reservoir for virus particles.
- It seems that today’s mantra of ‘listen to the science’ is not as straightforward as it seems.
- Claims to wear masks are untested and unchallenged, then elevated to the status of ‘the science’.
- The hasty assembling of research articles in support of a policy position is not science. This is as likely to be to be dangerously misleading as it is to yield even negligible benefits.
- Scientific controversy in the 21st century is settled by institutional weight and muscle, not by experiment.
- The president of the Royal Society wants to have his cake and eat it: he wants the government to defer to institutional science, but not for science to be accountable for this influence.
- The government, weakened by its capitulations to breakfast TV anchors, politically motivated scientists and scientific institutions, may find itself unable to roll back policies which turn out to do more harm than good.
- From late-February 2020, Birmingham City Council gave care homes a £1,000 extra cash to take in hospital patients in a hurry, including some with coronavirus.
- Reason: more NHS beds could be freed up for coronavirus patients.
- Care home had to bid for the resident in a four hour window and, if their bid was ‘winning’, organise admission within 24 hours – regardless of the citizen’s Covid-19 testing or diagnosis status at the point of discharge.
- Care home manager, Jane Farr, of Digby Manor care home in Erdington, believes her rejection of the offer is one of the reasons none of her residents have been infected.
- From late February, any in-patients deemed ‘fit to discharge’ were rapidly moved out of hospital so hospital staff could focus on coronavirus patients.
- Dr David Rosser, chief executive of University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB) said the city created too much capacity – indicating some of the frantic measures to empty beds turned out to be not needed.
- From April 15 the Government’s rules changed and all discharged residents were supposed to undergo a test first.
The new Oxford study released by Royal Society and British Academy does not prove face coverings work. It is a policy document masquerading as an investigation into face coverings.
The Mayor Of London claims new evidence supports the use of face coverings as effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19. He cites a University of Oxford study that claims: “face masks and coverings work – act now.“
The study, from Oxford’s Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science, is freely available for download from The Royal Society website. Nevertheless, we doubted that many people would take time to verify the claims so we took a look. What did we find?
The bulk of study is in fact an investigation into policies and behavioural factors behind face mask usage. Only a small section is dedicated to analysing the effectiveness of cloth face coverings and even this provides nothing new. Further, rather than performing randomised controlled trials (RCTs), which form the highest level of evidence in medical science, this report simply looked at existing research.
From this existing research, the authors forced a conclusion that ‘face masks and coverings work’ but with some very important caveats:
- The tests were carried out in medical and lab settings, not within the community.
- There were other factors that contributed to the masks’ effectiveness.
- The conclusions were based on small studies.
The study limitations can be found in the document appendix, table A5.1.
What can we conclude from the release of this study?
It seems evidence for universal masking of healthy people in the community so flimsy that sleight of hand is needed in order to push public acceptance.
Update 19 July 2020:
A Spiked Online article published on 16 July, The government has lost control, draws the same conclusions:
The Royal Society published, on 26 June, a ‘rapid review of the science of the effectiveness of different face-mask types’ – a dense, 37-page tract which made the case for face masks. It was neither peer-reviewed nor opened to wide expert and public debate before being used to argue for policy.
…the hasty assembling of research articles in support of a policy position is not science, and demanding that the government introduce new ‘taboos’ is naive and clumsy social engineering, not careful examination of the facts.
Such is the quality of decision-making in the process generating our lockdown narrative. An early maintained but exaggerated belief in the lethality of the virus reinforced by modelling that was almost data-free, then amplified by further modelling with no proven predictive value. All summed up by recommendations from a committee based on qualitative data that hasn’t even been peer-reviewed.
- According to Office for National Statistics, this year comes only eighth in terms of deaths in past 27 years.
- The spread of viruses like Covid-19 is not new. What’s new is our response.
- The whole Covid drama has really been a crisis of awareness of what viruses normally do, rather than a crisis caused by an abnormally lethal new bug.
- Modelling is not science, for the simple reason that a prediction made by a scientist (using a model or not) is just opinion.
- To be classified as science, a prediction or theory needs to be able to be tested, and potentially falsified.
- A problem with the current approach: a wilful determination to ignore the quality of the information being used to set Covid policy.
- Most Covid research was not peer- reviewed.
- In medical science there is a well-known classification of data quality known as ‘the hierarchy of evidence’: a seven-level system gives an idea of how much weight can be placed on any given study or recommendation.
- Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) form the highest, most reliable form of medical evidence: Level 1 and 2.
- Virtually all evidence pertaining to Covid-19 policy is found in the lowest levels (much less compelling Levels 5 and 6): descriptive-only studies looking for a pattern, without using controls.
- Level 7 is at the bottom of the hierarchy (the opinion of authorities or reports of expert committees) because ‘authorities’ often fail to change their minds in the face of new evidence.
- Committees often issue compromise recommendations that are scientifically non-valid.
- The advice of Sage (or any committee of scientists) is the least reliable form of evidence there is.