Categories
Opinion

We must learn to live with coronavirus – just like Samuel Pepys lived with the Great Plague

  • Humans have lived with infectious diseases for at least 15,000 years.
  • Until the early 2000s when we started to vaccinate for flu, we accepted that outbreaks would kill 20,000 to 50,000 people every winter without much comment.
  • Self-isolation is not appropriate if you do not share the living conditions of the elites who make the rules – and that the risk does not seem proportionate to the benefits for ordinary people.
  • Face covering, as practised, is irrelevant in most circumstances. The whole country should not be driven by the exceptional circumstances of rush hour in major cities. If most people are currently wearing face coverings, acknowledge that this is because they want to avoid trouble rather than to achieve protection.
  • We will never eradicate the threat from coronaviruses because they are so widespread among animal populations.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-8776423/Coronavirus-UK-learn-live-covid-says-ROBERT-DINGWALL.html

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Opinion

Covid-19: Does Sweden have herd immunity? – Sebastian Rushworth M.D.

  • Sweden never went in to full lockdown. Instead, the country imposed a partial lockdown that was almost entirely voluntary.
  • The only forcible restriction imposed by the government from the start was a requirement that people not gather in groups of more than 50 at a time.
  • People followed the voluntary restrictions pretty well at the beginning, but that they have become increasingly lax as time has gone on.
  • After an initial peak that lasted for a month or so, from March to April, visits to the Emergency Room due to covid had been declining continuously, and deaths in Sweden had dropped from over 100 a day at the peak in April, to around five per day in August.
  • Dr. Rushworth hasn’t seen a single covid patient in the Emergency Room in over two and a half months.
  • COVID has killed under 6,000 people.
  • On average, one to two people per day are dying of covid in Sweden at present, and that number continues to drop.
  • In the whole of Stockholm, a county with 2,4 million inhabitants, there are currently only 28 people being treated for covid in all the hospitals combined.
  • Sweden seemed to be developing herd immunity, in spite of the fact that only a minority had antibodies, was due to T-cells.
  • Immunity may be long lasting, and probably explains why there have only been a handful of reported cases of re-infection with covid, even though the virus has spent the last nine months bouncing around the planet infecting many millions of people.
  • Almost all cases of reinfection have been completely asymptomatic.
  • People develop a functioning immunity after the first infection, which allows them to fight off the second infection without ever developing any symptoms.
  •  England and Italy have mortality curves that are very similar to Sweden’s.
  • Lockdown only makes sense if you are willing to stay in lockdown until there is an effective vaccine.

https://sebastianrushworth.com/2020/09/19/covid-19-does-sweden-have-herd-immunity/

Categories
News

Pandemic isolation has killed thousands of Alzheimer’s patients while families watch from afar – The Washington Post

Since the pandemic began, Goerke’s wife, Denise — 63 years old and afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease — had declined dramatically. Left alone in her nursing home, she had lost 16 pounds, could not form the simplest words, no longer responded to the voices of her children.

In recent weeks, she had stopped recognizing even the man she loved.

Goerke, 61, could tell the isolation was killing his wife, and there was nothing he could do but watch. “Every day it gets a little worse,” he said. “We’ve lost months, maybe years of her already.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/09/16/coronavirus-dementia-alzheimers-deaths/

Categories
Opinion

Boris Johnson needs to bin the rule of six- The Spectator

  • 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.

https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/boris-johnson-needs-to-bin-the-rule-of-six

Categories
Opinion

Delaying herd immunity is costing lives – Spiked

The choice we face is stark. One option is to maintain a general lockdown for an unknown amount of time until herd immunity is reached through a future vaccine or until there is a safe and effective treatment. This must be weighed against the detrimental effects that lockdowns have on other health outcomes. The second option is to minimise the number of deaths until herd immunity is achieved through natural infection. Most places are neither preparing for the former nor considering the latter.

The question is not whether to aim for herd immunity as a strategy, because we will all eventually get there. The question is how to minimise casualties until we get there. Since Covid-19 mortality varies greatly by age, this can only be accomplished through age-specific countermeasures. We need to shield older people and other high-risk groups until they are protected by herd immunity.

Among the individuals exposed to Covid-19, people aged in their 70s have roughly twice the mortality of those in their 60s, 10 times the mortality of those in their 50s, 40 times that of those in their 40s, 100 times that of those in their 30s, and 300 times that of those in their 20s. The over-70s have a mortality that is more than 3,000 times higher than children have. For young people, the risk of death is so low that any reduced levels of mortality during the lockdown might not be due to fewer Covid-19 deaths, but due to fewer traffic accidents.

https://www.spiked-online.com/2020/04/29/delaying-herd-immunity-is-costing-lives/

Categories
News

NHS data shows 15m on ‘hidden waiting list’ – The Times

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.

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/coronavirus-nhs-data-shows-15m-on-hidden-waiting-list-w250vxvz6

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News

How eco-warriors are using Covid as an excuse to drive cars off the road: Councils are closing roads but creating more cycle lanes, piling new agony on shops… all under the guise of saving us from the virus – Daily Mail

Covid has been used as an excuse for road closures to encourage people out of their cars to get fit and lose weight and protect themselves against the virus 

London, Oxford, Manchester, Birmingham, York, Edinburgh, Nottingham, Derby and Cardiff are all in line for Government funding to install ‘green’ measures

Government has set aside £225m for ’emergency’ walking and cycling measures

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8654475/How-councils-closing-roads-creating-cycle-lanes-guise-saving-virus.html

Categories
News

Restrictions have turned care homes into ‘prisons’, charities warn Government – The Telegraph

Care homes have been turned into prisons, with residents “losing the will to live” as they are deprived contact with families, charities for the elderly have warned.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on coronavirus was told that restrictions on visiting homes have become so extreme that vulnerable people are being left distressed and lonely, in some cases unable to recognise their loved ones.

Charities said belated attempts to keep residents safe from the spread of coronavirus were too often creating misery and isolation.

They criticised the Government for acting so slowly to attempt to protect care homes from the pandemic that 6,000 deaths had occurred by the time testing was introduced.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/08/12/restrictions-have-turned-care-homes-prisons-charities-warn-government/

Categories
Opinion

The Lockdown Lobotomy – The Critic

While naysayers may pick holes in specific studies, the quantity and consistency of evidence is overwhelming: lockdown is stressful, it harms cognitive function, and it makes you susceptible to disease. Ultimately, the toll is high. A meta-analytic review (Holt-Lunstad et al., 2015) found that social isolation increases the likelihood of mortality by 29%. In short, lockdown is murder.

https://thecritic.co.uk/the-lockdown-lobotomy/

Categories
Opinion

COVID-19 May Never Go Away — With Or Without A Vaccine – NPR

Humans have never been particularly good at eradicating entire viruses, and COVID-19 might not be any different.

More than 19 million people have tested positive for the coronavirus globally, and at least 722,000 have died. In the U.S., nearly 5 million people have tested positive and more than 160,000 have died. While scientists are racing to find a cure for the virus, there’s a chance COVID-19 will never fully go away — with or without a vaccine.

Vineet Menachery, a coronavirus researcher at the University of Texas Medical Branch, told NPR’s Weekend Edition that one of the more likely scenarios is that the spread of COVID-19 will eventually be slowed as a result of herd immunity. He said that he’d be surprised “if we’re still wearing masks and 6-feet distancing in two or three years” and that in time, the virus could become no more serious than the common cold.

The first thing to remember is that we haven’t been successful at eradicating many viruses at all. Really the lone exception is smallpox, but many of these viruses exist not only in the human population but in animal populations. So coronaviruses may be removed from the human population, like SARS coronavirus in 2002, but we know that those viruses or viruses that are similar to it still exist in nature and at any time they may gain the tools to reemerge in humans again.

https://text.npr.org/s.php?sId=900490301

Categories
Opinion

We need a Covid reality check and to focus on getting our economy back – The Telegraph

Here is the good news: No matter how old you are, you are extremely unlikely to die of Covid-19. Even if a lockdown had not been instituted and no social distancing implemented, and assuming Imperial College’s controversial worst-case scenario estimate of 500,000 deaths, there would have been a 99% likelihood of surviving the pandemic.

This is no bubonic plague. That killed very nearly 30 per cent of the world’s population in the 14th century. Here is some more good news: a lockdown was instituted and social distancing measures are now well entrenched in our behaviour. As a result, the chance of surviving the pandemic is more like 99.9%.

If you are fortunate to be under the age of 45, your chances of dying from the virus are negligible. You are more likely to die from a lightning strike. The Office of National Statistics estimates that only 0.07% of the population in England is currently infected by the virus. That equates to about 35,000 people.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2020/08/07/need-covid-reality-check-focus-getting-economy-back/

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Videos

Corona – The Simple Truth in Under 6 Minutes

References for the video can be found at the content creator’s website at https://the-iceberg.net

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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.”

Categories
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.

Categories
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.

Categories
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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Publications

Nonpharmaceutical Measures for Pandemic Influenza in Nonhealthcare Settings—Personal Protective and Environmental Measures – CDC

There were 3 influenza pandemics in the 20th century, and there has been 1 so far in the 21st century. Local, national, and international health authorities regularly update their plans for mitigating the next influenza pandemic in light of the latest available evidence on the effectiveness of various control measures in reducing transmission. Here, we review the evidence base on the effectiveness of nonpharmaceutical personal protective measures and environmental hygiene measures in nonhealthcare settings and discuss their potential inclusion in pandemic plans. Although mechanistic studies support the potential effect of hand hygiene or face masks, evidence from 14 randomized controlled trials of these measures did not support a substantial effect on transmission of laboratory-confirmed influenza. We similarly found limited evidence on the effectiveness of improved hygiene and environmental cleaning. We identified several major knowledge gaps requiring further research, most fundamentally an improved characterization of the modes of person-to-person transmission.

https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/26/5/19-0994_article

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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