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Videos

T-cell immunity and the truth about Covid-19 in Sweden – Dr. Soo Aleman, UnHerd

“Intensive care units are getting empty, the wards are getting empty, we are really seeing a decrease — and that despite that people are really loosening up. The beaches are crowded, social distancing is not kept very well … but still the numbers are really decreasing. That means that something else is happening – we are actually getting closer to herd immunity. I can’t really see another reason.”

“I can’t say if the Swedish approach was right or wrong – I think we can say that in one or two years when we are looking back. You have to look at the mortality over the whole period.”

“I don’t think that we have more new cases, I think we are just detecting more cases”

“We found that if you have a mild case you can be negative for antibodies afterwards … in those almost all of them had strong T-cell activity. This study says that there are cases that you can have a strong T-cell response even though you have not had antibodies, meaning that you have encountered the virus and built up immunity.”

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Opinion

Near identical dynamics for England, Sweden, Spain – Professor Paul Dennis

Professor Paul Dennis, a geologist and isotope geochemist at the University of East Anglia, compared the deaths in England, Sweden, Spain. He found near identical dynamics, which supports the theory that COVID-19 appears to follow the Gompertz curve in every outbreak region. This implies that social distancing and lockdown has no effect.

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Opinion

Lockdown and social distancing could make our immune system weaker, says scientist – The Telegraph

Prolonged periods of lockdown cocooning the public from germs could leave people dangerously vulnerable to new viruses, a leading epidemiologist has warned.

Sunetra Gupta, professor of theoretical epidemiology at the University of Oxford, fears intense social distancing could actually weaken immune systems because people are not exposed to germs and so do not develop defences that could protect them against future pandemics.

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Opinion

How SAGE and the UK media created fear in the British public

COVID-19 started registering with most of the British public around late February and early March. Many were concerned but not particularly afraid. Only weeks later people were terrified to leave their homes or go near other human beings. How did such a dramatic shift in public perception happen so quickly?

In early March 2020, The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) produced a document for the UK Government highlighting methods for rolling out new social distancing rules. There seemed to be some doubt as to whether the public would comply with the upcoming measures so SAGE outlined a methodology based on known psychological behavioural modification techniques.

Research and analysis: Options for increasing adherence to social distancing measures, 22 March 2020

SAGE, SPI-B and applied psychology

SAGE is an advisory group to the UK government responsible for making sure decision makers have access to scientific advice. We are told that the advice provided by SAGE does not represent official government policy.

SAGE also relies on expert sub-groups for COVID-19 specific advice. These sub-groups include:

  • NERVTAG: New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group
  • SPI-M: Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling
  • SPI-B: Independent Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours

The identity of individual committee members themselves were initially kept secret, purportedly due to national security. Some names were eventually released, largely due to efforts by UK businessman Simon Dolan and his legal challenge campaign. Nevertheless, two members remain anonymous.

Psychological techniques for behavioural change

The document itself, titled Options for increasing adherence to social distancing measures, was drafted by SPI-B, the behavioural science sub-group for SAGE.

SPI-B highlighted nine broad ways of achieving behavioural change in the public:

  1. Education
  2. Persuasion
  3. Incentivisation
  4. Coercion
  5. Enablement
  6. Training
  7. Restriction
  8. Environmental restructuring
  9. Modelling

In the document, SPI-B focused on the methods most relevant to their stated goals and set out ten options that were evaluated on six criteria.

The six criteria, under the acronym APEASE, were:

  • Acceptability
  • Practicability
  • Effectiveness
  • Affordability
  • Spill-over effects
  • Equity
Source: Options for increasing adherence to social distancing measures, 22 March 2020

Government persuasion through fear

A key part of SPI-B’s behavioural change strategy that seems to have been adopted was to ‘persuade through fear.’ The Persuasion section of the document states:

A substantial number of people still do not feel sufficiently personally threatened.

Clearly, the psychologists felt that, as of late March, the public was still not afraid of COVID-19. It therefore suggested that the government increase the level of fear:

The perceived level of personal threat needs to be increased among those who are complacent, using hard-hitting emotional messaging.

Appendix B of the document lists ten options that can be used to increase social distancing in the public. Option 2 advises:

Use media to increase sense of personal threat.

Source: Options for increasing adherence to social distancing measures, 22 March 2020

In hindsight, this explains the tone of government sponsored social media and physical billboard advertising campaigns that started appearing around April.

SPI-B recommendations to increase personal threat and use hard-hitting emotional messaging are on display with eerie imagery coupled with taglines such as:

  • Anyone can get it. Anyone can spread it.
  • Don’t put your friends and family in danger.
  • Stay home for your family. Don’t put their lives in danger.
  • If you go out, you can spread it. People will die.
Source: Reuters, 8 April 2020
Source: Sky News, 18 April 2020

Hysterical news headlines

During the first week of April 2020, the InProportion2 project noticed a change in the BBC headlines and posted the article, BBC: Informing or scaring?

Source: BBC headlines in April 2020 compiled by InProportion2

The article compared hysterical BBC news headline from the first week of April 2020 with those from 2018, when mortality rates were peaking due to a bad flu season. It found no references to flu or excess mortality on the BBC home page during the 2018 peak. InProportion2 asked, “Do the headlines reflect the gravity of the situations in an equivalent way – or is additional fear being stirred up in 2020?

Persuasion through shame and approval: Covidiots and heroes

SPI-B psychologists knew that fear on its own would not persuade everyone. Messaging needed to be tailored to take into account different ‘motivational levers.’

Some people will be more persuaded by appeals to play by the rules, some by duty to the community, and some to personal risk.

It therefore suggested using both social approval and disapproval, with compulsion (legislation) as a backup:

  • Option 6: Use and promote social approval for desired behaviours
  • Option 7: Consider enacting legislation to compel required behaviours
  • Option 8: Consider use of social disapproval for failure to comply

We can see the obvious approval-disapproval dialectic with the ‘Heroes and Covidiots’ narrative that soon began to surface in the news. The term ‘Covidiot’ appeared around March with The Economist’s 1843 Magazine describing covidiots in this way:

Even in a pandemic, many of us are prone to judge others and find them wanting: the term “covidiot” describes any and every person behaving stupidly or irresponsibly as the epidemic spreads. Sometime in early March the word was born, and, almost as fast as the virus spread, so did instances of covidiotic behaviour.

Although it’s not clear how the term came about, it was quickly adopted in UK mainstream and social media. At the same time, we began seeing praise for heroes who ‘did the right thing’ by complying with the government measures.

The METRO article below shows all three options in play:

  • Social approval:These local heroes have been doing amazing things…”
  • Social disapproval: “Lake District closed…because covidiots won’t stay away…”
  • Compulsion:Matt Hancock threatens to close beaches…”
Source: METRO, 27 Mar 2020

An incentivised media

These psychological techniques would have been impossible to deploy on the public without a compliant media. How did the government convince the media to go along with the plan?

Increased UK government media spending

Digiday, a media and marketing industry publication, reported in April that the government is becoming UK news publishers’ most important client. In the 20 April 2020 article for Digiday, Lara O’Reilly wrote:

…the government is spending more than usual, judging by their bookings. The publishers also pointed out that the lack of activity from other advertisers in the current market means the government campaigns will have an outweighed share of voice compared with normal times.

Digiday Stay At Home campaign
Source: Digiday, 20 April 2020

During that period, the British public started seeing coverage across media outlets with the unified “In this together” messaging. O’Reilly pointed out that the campaign was worth £35 million over a three month period.

Last week, the government and newspaper industry launched a three-month advertising partnership dubbed “All in, all together.” The campaign — worth approximately £35 million ($44 million) for the full course, according to sources — kicked off on Apr. 17, with all the U.K.’s national and regional daily news brands running near-identical cover wraps and homepage takeovers, which carried the copy, “Stay at home for the NHS, your family, your neighbours, your nation the world and life itself.” 

So, we ask again: how did the government convince the media to go along with the plan? The answer is simple and obvious: with lots of money.

Psychological techniques to change behaviour

We can see that the UK Government has a public document outlining psychological techniques to change the behaviour of the population. We see a unified mass-media campaign that falls in line with these techniques. We then see a dramatic shift in public perception and behaviour.

What else can we call this but ‘brainwashing’?

Despite the open nature of what has transpired, it seems to have gained little coverage in the media. This is of no surprise since it was clearly complicit in spreading fear in the public.

Download the document

The document is freely downloadable on the gov.uk website in a page titled, “Research and analysis – Options for increasing adherence to social distancing measures, 22 March 2020“.

We encourage you to read the document, compare it with your observations about how the government and media has acted, then make up your own mind.

Categories
Opinion

SAGE advises use of media to increase sense of personal threat

Update 27 June 2020: For a more in-depth commentary, please read How SAGE and the UK media created fear in the British public


In early March 2020, The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) produced a document for the UK Government highlighting recommendations for increasing adherence to social distancing measures. There seemed to be some doubt as to whether the public would comply with the upcoming measures so SAGE developed a methodology based on criteria called ‘APEASE’.

The document itself was drafted by SPI-B, the behavioural science sub-group for SAGE. More information about SPI-B can be found in this document.

Source: Options for increasing adherence to social distancing measures, 22 March 2020

APEASE criteria

In the document, behavioural change options were set in a grid and evaluated based on the six criteria. See Appendix B in the linked document.

SPI-B’s APEASE criteria are:

  • Acceptability
  • Practicability
  • Effectiveness
  • Affordability
  • Spill-over effects
  • Equity

Persuasion through fear

It seems that a big part of SPI-B’s behavioural change strategy was to ‘persuade through fear.’ The Persuasion section of the document states:

The perceived level of personal threat needs to be increased among those who are complacent, using hard-hitting emotional messaging. To be effective this must also empower people by making clear the actions they can take to reduce the threat.

Appendix B of the document lists ten options that can be used to increase social distancing in the public. Option 2 advises: “Use media to increase sense of personal threat.

Psychological techniques to change behaviour

In this document, the UK Government has openly admitted to using psychological techniques to change the behaviour of the British population. Despite the open nature of this admission, it seems to have gained little coverage in the media.

This is of no surprise since the British media was clearly complicit in spreading fear in the public.

Download the document

The document is freely downloadable on the gov.uk website in a page titled, “Research and analysis – Options for increasing adherence to social distancing measures, 22 March 2020“.

Categories
Opinion

Day by day, the coronavirus edges ever closer to extinction. Time to get back to normal – The Telegraph

It’s becoming clear that the social distancing rules – even if the new one-metre rule – are unnecessary.

Across the United Kingdom, epidemiologists, public health officials and local bureaucrats are stamping their feet and gnashing their teeth. They’re furious about the fact that daily deaths from Covid-19 are continuing to decline at a precipitous rate. Contrary to their dire warnings, the easing of lockdown restrictions hasn’t led to an uptick in the rate of infection. The much ballyhooed ‘second spike’ has refused to materialise. The virus has all but disappeared.

The extent to which Covid-19 has vanished isn’t immediately apparent from the figures. The death tolls announced each day refer to all those deaths involving coronavirus that have been ‘registered’ in the last 24 hours. That includes people who died weeks ago – sometimes months ago – but whose paperwork has only just been completed. If you look instead at the number of actual deaths in English hospitals in the last 24 hours, that gives a clearer picture. The number on June 23 was four – all in the north west. Fewer than 20 died in London hospitals in the past week.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/06/25/day-day-coronavirus-edges-ever-closer-extinction-time-get-back/

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News

Two-metre coronavirus rule is just for guidance, says Jacob Rees-Mogg – The Times

The two-metre social distancing guidance is “not an absolute rule” and “can only remain in place as long as there is consent”, a cabinet minister has said.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the Commons, said the measure was “guidance rather than an absolute rule that will be enforced by a policeman”.

Speaking on his fortnightly Moggcast on the Conservative Home website, he added: “My view of all the restrictions is that they have happened by consent rather than compulsion.”

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/two-metre-coronavirus-rule-is-just-for-guidance-says-jacob-rees-mogg-pwmfbcnqh

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News

No evidence for two-metre rule, Oxford experts say – The Telegraph

Writing for the Telegraph, Professors Carl Heneghan and Tom Jefferson, from the University of Oxford, said there is little evidence to support the restriction and called for an end to the “formalised rules”.

The University of Dundee also said there was no indication that distancing at two metres is safer than one metre. 

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/06/15/two-metre-rule-has-no-basis-say-oxford-university-experts/

Categories
Opinion

Why social distancing is worse than useless – The Conservative Woman

If social distancing made things better, we would expect a positive correlation on both of these graphs – in other words, earlier social distancing would lead to both earlier flattening of the curve and lower total deaths, meaning these points would all sit close to a diagonal line sloping up from left to right. Instead what we see is very little correlation at all, and what there is is negative. So early social distancing is either doing nothing or making things worse. This is likely because the virus spreads mainly in hospitals, care homes and private homes rather than in the community, so social distancing of the wider population beyond a basic minimum (washing hands, self-isolating when ill, not getting too close, and so on) has little impact. 

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News

Three mothers are considering launching legal battle with Government claiming school closures during coronavirus crisis may have breached their children’s human rights – Daily Mail

Three mothers are considering suing the Government over school closures – amid claims they may have breached children’s human rights and pupil’s are being ‘treated like they’re germs’. 

The women have also written to the Secretary of State Gavin Williamson to ask whether the ‘long term physical and mental welfare’ of pupils has been considered, and to raise concerns about social distancing.

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News

The 2006 Origins of the Lockdown Idea – American Institute for Economic Research

What’s truly surprising is just how recent the theory behind lockdown and forced distancing actually is. So far as anyone can tell, the intellectual machinery that made this mess was invented 14 years ago, and not by epidemiologists but by computer-simulation modelers. It was adopted not by experienced doctors – they warned ferociously against it – but by politicians. 

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Opinion

We shouldn’t indulge this deluded two-metre social distancing rule any longer – The Telegraph

Social distancing is a fantasy…like it or not, every individual citizen is going to have make their own risk assessments, use their common sense and make their own decisions about how to live their lives. “Stay away from everyone” is a clear message but not credible.

During the surreal early weeks of the lockdown, the notion of long-term social distancing seemed logical and sensible, but as the weeks rolled by, the utter ludicrousness of it became apparent. Matt Hancock helped to emphasise the absurdity of it all when he said that it will not be possible to hug anyone outside of our household until the virus was “totally sorted”. 

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2020/05/22/shouldnt-indulge-deluded-two-metre-social-distancing-rule-longer/

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Publications

Scientific and ethical basis for social-distancing interventions against COVID-19 – The Lancet

The observation that the greatest reduction in COVID-19 cases was achieved under the combined [social distancing] intervention is not surprising. However, the assessment of the additional benefit of each intervention, when implemented in combination, offers valuable insight. Since each approach individually will result in considerable societal disruption, it is important to understand the extent of intervention needed to reduce transmission and disease burden.

The effectiveness and societal impact of quarantine and social distancing will depend on the credibility of public health authorities, political leaders, and institutions. It is important that policy makers maintain the public’s trust through use of evidence-based interventions and fully transparent, fact-based communication.

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS1473-3099(20)30190-0/fulltext

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Videos

The epidemic is on its way out – Professor Sunetra Gupta, UnHerd

We spoke to Sunetra Gupta, Professor of Theoretical Epidemiology at the University of Oxford and head of the team that released a study in March which speculated that as much as 50% of the population may already have been infected and the true Infection Fatality Rate could be as low as 0.1%.

In her first major interview since the Oxford study was published, she goes further by arguing that Covid-19 has already passed through the population and is now on its way out. She said:

On antibodies:
• Many of the antibody tests are “extremely unreliable”
• They do not indicate the true level of exposure or level of immunity • “Different countries have had different lockdown policies, and yet what we’ve observed is almost a uniform pattern of behaviour”
• “Much of the driving force was due to the build-up of immunity”

On IFR:

• “Infection Fatality Rate is less than 1 in 1000 and probably closer to 1 in 10,000.”
• That would be somewhere between 0.1% and 0.01%

On lockdown policy:
• Referring to the Imperial model: “Should we act on a possible worst case scenario, given the costs of lockdown? It seems to me that given that the costs of lockdown are mounting that case is becoming more and more fragile”
• Recommends “a more rapid exit from lockdown based more on certain heuristics, like who is dying and what is happening to the death rates”

On the UK Government response:
• “We might have done better by doing nothing at all, or at least by doing something different, which would have been to pay attention to protecting the vulnerable”

On the R rate:
• It is “principally dependent on how many people are immune” and we don’t have that information.
• Deaths are the only reliable measure.

On New York:
• “When you have pockets of vulnerable people it might rip through those pockets in a way that it wouldn’t if the vulnerable people were more scattered within the general population.”

On social distancing:
• “Remaining in a state of lockdown is extremely dangerous”
• “We used to live in a state approximating lockdown 100 years ago, and that was what created the conditions for the Spanish Flu to come in and kill 50m people.”

On next steps:
• “It is very dangerous to talk about lockdown without recognising the enormous costs that it has on other vulnerable sectors in the population”
• It is a “strong possibility” that if we return to full normal tomorrow — pubs, nightclubs, festivals — we would be fine.

On the politics of Covid:
• “There is a sort of libertarian argument for the release of lockdown, and I think it is unfortunate that those of us who feel we should think differently about lockdown”
• “The truth is that lockdown is a luxury, and it’s a luxury that the middle classes are enjoying and higher income countries are enjoying at the expense of the poor, the vulnerable and less developed countries.”

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News

UK facing ‘severe recession, the likes of which we haven’t seen’ warns Chancellor – The Telegraph

“Lockdown is having a significant impact on our economy and we are likely to face a severe recession, the likes of which we haven’t seen”

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2020/05/19/lockdown-uk-news-coronavirus-boris-johnson-update/

Categories
Opinion Videos

Professor Karol Sikora: fear is more deadly than the virus – UnHerd

  • Professor Karol Sikora says that COVID-19 behaves like pandemics in the past.
  • Society is scarred all over the world.
  • The virus will go but the fear will do the damage.

Note: YouTube has taken down the video. Please go directly to UnHerd’s site:

https://unherd.com/thepost/professor-karol-sikora-fear-is-more-dangerous-than-the-virus/

Professor Karol Sikora has become something of a celebrity in the UK over the past months for his expert commentary on the pandemic, and his unusual tendency for optimism rather than pessimism.

Virus ‘getting tired’
– In the past two weeks, the virus is showing signs of petering out
– It’s as though the virus is ‘getting tired’, almost ‘getting bored’
– It’s happening across the world at the same time

Existing herd immunity
– The serology results around the world (and forthcoming in Britain) don’t necessarily reveal the percentage of people who have had the disease
– He estimates 25-30% of the UK population has had Covid-19, and higher in the group that is most susceptible
– Pockets of herd immunity help *already* explain the downturn
– Sweden’s end result will not be different to ours – lockdown versus no lockdown

Fear more deadly than the virus
– When the history books are written, the fear will have killed many more people than the virus, including large numbers of cancer and cardiological patients not being treated
– We should have got the machinery of the NHS for non-corona patients back open earlier

Masks and schools
– Evidence on masks is just not there either way so it should be an ‘individual decision’
– We should move to 1m social distancing which means restaurants and bars could reopen
– More schools should reopen in June as ‘children are not the transmitters of this virus’
– We should be getting back to the ‘old normal’ not a ‘new normal’

Categories
Opinion

When will our leaders wake up to reality? – The Conservative Woman

  • COVID-19 is about as deadly as flu, averaging between 0.1 and 0.8 per cent death rate.
  • The general population under 65 with no pre-existing conditions are more likely to die in a road accident.
  • Infections peaked and began to decline in many places including the UK before lockdown began
  • Social distancing shows no consistent relationship to the slowdown of infections in cities around the world?
  • Studies show that people confined to their homes may be as at much risk as those out and about.
  • ‘R number’ rise happened in the middle of lockdown and probably linked to ongoing spreading in hospitals and care homes.
  • Shutting down the world economy may result in of the order of 1,157,000 additional child deaths and 56,700 additional maternal deaths in low- and middle-income countries.
  • Former Supreme Court judge Lord Sumption: “The lockdown is now all about protecting politicians’ backs. They are not wicked men, just timid ones, terrified of being blamed for deaths on their watch. But it is a wicked thing that they are doing.”
Categories
News Opinion

‘R’ rate is less reliable than a weather forecast – Dr. John Lee, Daily Mail

  • Keeping R below one is not the only way to map a route out of lockdown.
  • R is an artificial construct and not even a number we know with any certainty.
  • R is calculated using mathematical models which have repeatedly been found to reach wrong-headed conclusions.
  • R is not a strong enough number to bear the burden of any Government policy.
  • Epidemiology models share the same serious problem as meteorology because of weak data.
  • Lack of testing means we don’t know how many people have been infected, or have recovered.
  • Changes to death certification during this epidemic mean that we genuinely don’t even know how many people have died as a direct result of COVID-19.
  • It is becoming increasingly clear that assumptions central to the models that generate R are flawed.
  • Worries that R was apparently heading back towards one were missing the point. For some segments of society, including most people of working age, that would be a good thing.
  • Another implication of seeing R this way, which is quite a relief, is that social distancing can be consigned to the dustbin of bizarre historical episodes.
  • R is calculated in ways that the Government can produce at will to justify a policy that is no longer tenable.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8326857/DR-JOHN-LEE-says-R-rate-reliable-weather-forecast.html

Categories
Opinion

Social distancing corrodes society – Spiked

This level of social distancing cannot go on indefinitely. It will break down, more than it already has. As much as people tell the pollsters that, if anything, the current regime is too soft-touch, many are already bending if not breaking the rules on meeting friends and family, weighing the risks, being careful, and deciding for themselves. And it’s not just among the supposedly selfish young, either. Older people want to see their kids and grandkids and to make the most of the time they have left.

https://www.spiked-online.com/2020/05/17/social-distancing-corrodes-society/

Categories
Opinion

Patel’s ‘Social Distancing is Here to Stay’ Warning Presents Inhumane, Nightmare Vision of Future – Sputnik

Most people have accepted a temporary period of ’social distancing’ to contain the spread of COVID-19, but it seems that some in authority, like UK Home Secretary Priti Patel, would like to see us keep our distance from each other indefinitely. We must never let this happen because if we do, humanity is dead.