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Opinion

Is the NHS at risk of being overwhelmed by Covid? – The Spectator

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, has gone back to Plan A, reviving his ‘protect the NHS’ message from March and now wears a facemask with those words on it. The Prime Minister is repeating the slogan. It’s  deeply controversial with senior doctors who fear that it discourages the sick from seeking help – which might explain the 28,000 excess at-home deaths over the last few months. The NHS is worried about this and has countered with its own advert, urging people to seek medical help. I looked at this in my latest Daily Telegraph column.

The NHS has learned much from the first wave of Covid. PPE equipment, for example, is now in bountiful supply. Basic medical techniques – better use of blood thinners, oxygen therapy, steroids etc – are having a big impact on survival rates. When Boris Johnson went into intensive care, his survival chances were about 50 per cent. Now, they would be closer to 70 per cent. The trajectory this time is nowhere near as daunting – the below graph shows the rise of Covid patients needing critical care. As the data shows, intensive care unit (ICU) usage is 13 per cent of what it was at the end of March. (These figures are from the Intensive Care National Audit & Research Centre.)

https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/how-likely-is-the-nhs-to-be-overwhelmed-by-covid-

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Opinion

An epidemic of failure: Test and Trace that doesn’t work, local lockdowns that don’t make sense, flu deaths counted as Covid-19… and an economy on the brink. We somehow made a crisis worse – Dr. John Lee, Daily Mail

  • The UK Government’s Test and Trace policy isn’t working and is worse than useless.
  • 40 per cent of those asked to name their recent contacts were unable to remember anyone.
  • The tests on which Test and Trace is based are highly unreliable.
  • Covid is a coronavirus and its symptoms are vague: a cough, a raised temperature, the loss of taste and smell — all of which overlap with the symptoms for flu and the common cold.
  • When the procedure goes wrong, it generates a ‘false positive’ result: it indicates an infection where none exists.
  • Even with long-established tests, we’d expect to see false positives in perhaps one per cent of cases. With this one, it could quite conceivably be 5 per cent or higher.
  • This means that if 300,000 tests are processed in a day, perhaps 15,000 or more will generate inaccurate reports of Covid-19 infection.
  • One positive is not necessarily the same as another, but the Government numbers don’t differentiate.
  • Last week, it was reported that just 1,800 out of 110,000 occupied beds in hospitals were taken up by Covid-19 patients.
  • It is likely that those who died were elderly and suffering from co-morbidities such as heart disease and diabetes.
  • But it is also possible that they died from something else entirely — such as flu.
  • The UK Government’s Test and Trace policy isn’t working and is worse than useless.
  • 40 per cent of those asked to name their recent contacts were unable to remember anyone.
  • The tests on which Test and Trace is based are highly unreliable.
  • Covid is a coronavirus and its symptoms are vague: a cough, a raised temperature, the loss of taste and smell — all of which overlap with the symptoms for flu and the common cold.
  • When the procedure goes wrong, it generates a ‘false positive’ result: it indicates an infection where none exists.
  • Even with long-established tests, we’d expect to see false positives in perhaps one per cent of cases. With this one, it could quite conceivably be 5 per cent or higher.
  • This means that if 300,000 tests are processed in a day, perhaps 15,000 or more will generate inaccurate reports of Covid-19 infection.
  • One positive is not necessarily the same as another, but the Government numbers don’t differentiate.
  • Last week, it was reported that just 1,800 out of 110,000 occupied beds in hospitals were taken up by Covid-19 patients.
  • It is likely that those who died were elderly and suffering from co-morbidities such as heart disease and diabetes.
  • But it is also possible that they died from something else entirely — such as flu.
  • Coronaviruses are as old as humanity and have resisted every attempt at a vaccine or a cure. One project to wipe out the common cold was funded for more than 40 years — and got nowhere.
  • Today’s flu vaccines are less than 50 per cent effective, and there is no chance whatever that a hurriedly developed Covid-19 vaccine could be anything like as good as that.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-8808609/DR-JOHN-LEE-Test-Trace-doesnt-work-local-lockdowns-dont-make-sense.html

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News Opinion

COVID-19 and the false positive trap – Dr. Clare Craig, The Spectator

Current test results should not be automatically accepted as real

Imagine a world where COVID-19 has been eliminated. To be certain this is true, the government conducts regular tests at random. The number of positive results should be zero, right? Wrong. There will always be a proportion of cases tested that come back with a false positive test result. Thankfully, for COVID-19, the false positive rate is less than one percent of tests done. But it is not zero. It will be impossible for us to ever reach zero. Why? Because COVID-19 cannot be eliminated, even if it is likely to evolve to be more benign and become a seasonal problem like influenza.

https://spectator.us/covid-19-false-positive-trap-seasonal/

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News

Government paid reality TV stars to promote NHS Test and Trace – Sky News

Taxpayer money was used to pay social media influencers and reality TV stars to promote the NHS Test and Trace system, the government has admitted.

The Mirror cited a social media expert as saying the influencers would usually be paid between £5,000 and £10,000 for an ad post.

https://news.sky.com/story/coronavirus-government-paid-reality-tv-stars-to-promote-nhs-test-and-trace-12059587

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Opinion

Lockdown in north of England a ‘rash decision’ not backed up by data, Oxford professor says – Professor Carl Henegehan, The Telegraph

Imposing a widespread regional lockdown in the north west was a ‘rash’ decision which is not backed up by the data, an Oxford professor has claimed.

People in Greater Manchester, east Lancashire and parts of West Yorkshire were banned from meeting different households indoors, in a move that Matt Hancock, the health secretary said was ‘absolutely necessary.’

But Professor Carl Henegehan, director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at Oxford said the figures were skewed by delayed test results and when plotted by the date the test was taken showed no overall alarming rise.

“The northern lockdown was a rash decision,” he said. “Where’s the rise? By date of test through July there’s no change if you factor in all the increased testing that’s going on.

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News

Government’s test-and-trace programme is illegal under GDPR – Computing

The government skipped essential data privacy impact assessments in its rush to get the system up and running

https://www.computing.co.uk/news/4017986/uk-test-trace-illegal-gdpr

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News

England’s test and trace programme ‘breaks GDPR data law’ – BBC

The Department of Health has conceded the initiative to trace contacts of people infected with Covid-19 was launched without carrying out an assessment of its impact on privacy.

The Open Rights Group (ORG) says the admission means the initiative has been unlawful since it began on 28 May.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-53466471

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News

Coronavirus tests halted over safety fears, as Matt Hancock to make statement – The Telegraph

Coronavirus tests used by the NHS may be unsafe and have been halted, the Government has announced.

The Department of Health said the NHS Test and Trace service had been notified that some test kits produced by Randox Laboratories may not meet required safety standards. 

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/07/16/coronavirus-tests-halted-safety-fears-matt-hancock-make-statement/

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Opinion

Has the abuse of ‘test and trace’ started already? – The Spectator

Personal data is usually kept super-safe under onerous government restrictions – for the obvious risk of it falling into the wrong hands. But the pub landlord is less likely to have a data security policy, so it is easy to see how the list of drinkers can fall into the hands of a barman. Or even a customer. It gives an ominous new meaning to track-and-trace and undermines the basic privacy issues that this system raises.

https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/has-the-abuse-of-test-and-trace-started-already-

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Opinion

Opting out of NHS Test and Trace

According to government guidelines, the public will be asked to provide their names and phone numbers to the venues and businesses they visit from Saturday 4th July 2020.

Be aware that this is done on a voluntary basis. You are under no legal obligation to leave your details or provide correct information. The business should not refuse to serve you if you do not wish to provide your information.

The relevant section of the government guidelines is shown below.

Source: Department of Health and Social Care Guidance, 2 July 2020

The complete text for the guidelines can be found in a document that can be downloaded from the GOV.UK website: Maintaining records of staff, customers and visitors to support NHS Test and Trace

Information collected

If you choose to provide information as a customer, government guidelines state that only the following details should be collected:

  • The name of the customer or visitor. If there is more than one person, then you can record the name of the ‘lead member’ of the group and the number of people in the group.
  • A contact phone number for each customer or visitor, or for the lead member of a group of people.
  • Date of visit, arrival time and, where possible, departure time.
  • If a customer will interact with only one member of staff (e.g. a hairdresser), the name of the assigned staff member should be recorded alongside the name of the customer.

Booking and reservation information

The information you provide when making a booking or reservation may be shared with NHS Test and Trace. If you do not wish your details to be used for this purpose, you should inform the business that you wish to opt out of NHS Test and Trace.

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

NHS Test and Trace is subject to GDPR. This means that the business is legally obliged to handle your details in accordance with the regulation. However, be aware that under GDPR, the business is not required to:

  • Individually inform customers about how their information will be used.
  • Seek consent to collect data from individual customers.

If in doubt, make sure you explicitly inform management that you are opting out and any details you provide should not be used for NHS Test and Trace.

Why you should opt out of NHS Test and Trace

While we cannot give you advice about leaving your contact details, we believe that opting out of NHS Test and Trace is the right thing to do. This is because:

  1. The tests for COVID-19 are known to be inaccurate, resulting in high false positives and false negatives.
  2. These inaccurate results may be used to justify local lock-downs which will have a severely negative impact on your area.
  3. You will be traced and told self-isolate if anyone you have been in contact with during your visit tests positive, even if it is a false positive.
  4. The tracing system rollout was rushed and did not complete mandatory privacy checks. NHS Test and Trace is facing a legal challenge because it does not have strong enough safeguards.
  5. Your data will be held for 20 years. There is no way to know how the information collected about you will be used by a future political administration.
Categories
News

NHS Test and Trace faces legal challenge over privacy fears – The Telegraph

The Open Rights Group has reported the Test and Trace system to the Information Commissioner’s Office watchdog (ICO), sparking a fresh headache for ministers as they seek to prevent a second peak of Covid-19.

The group claims that the programme does not have strong enough safeguards for the sensitive health data that will be collected on potentially millions of people. It is also concerned about who will have access to the data, which is to be held for 20 years, and how it will be used in the decades ahead

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/2020/06/03/nhs-test-trace-faces-legal-challenge-privacy-fears/

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Opinion

We are sleepwalking from one denial of our liberties into an even more insidious phase – The Telegraph

When you think about it, there is something very odd about the farrago of the last week. Endless numbers of MPs, many of them Conservative, and a similarly vast array of media outlets received outraged demands for the sacking of the prime minister’s adviser because he allegedly transgressed the rules which have damaged the quality of life of ordinary people. Those who complained said that the deprivations and sacrifices which they have endured at such cost to their personal happiness and welfare were mocked by Dominic Cummings’ actions.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/05/30/sleepwalking-one-denial-liberties-even-insidious-phase/

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News

UK ‘test and trace’ service did not complete mandatory privacy checks – Politico

The so-called “test and trace” rollout will see thousands of people handing over their personal data to U.K. authorities via contact tracers as part of efforts to inform others if they have been in contact with people infected with the virus. The personal information, including names, zip codes, phone numbers and email addresses, will be held by government bodies for up to 20 years.

But Public Health England, the agency overseeing the system in England, confirmed to POLITICO that it had yet to complete a so-called data protection impact assessment — a mandatory requirement under U.K. law — before the system started on Thursday.

Under U.K law, such an assessment, detailing the potential privacy concerns of collecting reams of people’s sensitive data, is obligatory and must be completed before data collection begins. It has to be submitted to the country’s privacy watchdog for review.

https://www.politico.eu/article/uk-test-trace-privacy-data-impact-assessement/

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News

Civil liberty campaigners hit out at ‘draconian intrusion of privacy’ after Matt Hancock’s threat to issue fines for people not obeying 14-day test and trace isolation orders – Daily Mail

  • Groups hit out over threat of forced 14-day quarantine for test and trace scheme
  • It comes as the NHS Test and Trace scheme faced issues on its first official day 
  • Other groups have raised concerns over how people’s data will be stored safely

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8366481/Civil-liberties-groups-slam-Matt-Hancock-dranconian-coronavirus-test-trace-fine-threat.html

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Opinion

Coronavirus doesn’t care about politics – UnHerd

So as you read, in coming weeks, furious news stories about technical incompetence, citizen non-compliance, threats of stricter enforcement and blame in all directions, as if everything was hanging on the latest government policy, remember the humility of scientists instead of the solipsism of the political class. Yes, the Government action plan will most likely be ineffective, but politicians were never in charge of this anyway. It’s bigger than they are — the best they could ever hope to do is tinker around the edges. Coronavirus is nobody’s ‘fault’.

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News

Government coronavirus contact tracing site CRASHES within minutes of launching as staff reveal first shift has been a ‘complete shambles’ – Daily Mail

The government’s coronavirus contact tracing site crashed on launch this morning amid complaints it has been a ‘complete shambles’.

Doctors and other staff reported major teething troubles as the much-trumpeted scheme finally got up and running, with some saying they had not even received passwords to start work.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8364799/Matt-Hancock-LAUGHS-suggestion-rushed-contact-tracing-scheme.html