Covid & Climate Contrarianism: Two Sides Of The Same Coin

It is an article of faith: climate change is dangerous. Dare to criticise that view and, as a non scientist, you will be labelled a ‘climate denier’ and a crank. As a scientist, you will also be called a denier and a crank, as well as being ex-communicated, ostracised, hounded, disciplined, humiliated, vilified, cancelled, forced out of your job even. Dare to question the validity of epidemiological models which portray Covid-19 as a killer pandemic which, without lockdown, will cut through the populace like a knife, claiming hundreds of thousands of lives and overwhelming health services and you are similarly frowned upon by the prevailing epidemiological oligarchy.

At a recent online meeting of Nobel laureates outside of the field of epidemiology, prizewinners complained that:

researchers have ‘stuck to a line’ about the pandemic’s danger in order to get politicians to listen – risking open debate

Scientists have “circled the wagons” during the coronavirus pandemic, Nobel laureates have argued, and been afraid to have a truly open debate about whether the virus is as deadly as feared and if lockdowns are justified.

Michael Levitt, a winner of the chemistry prize in 2013 and, since February, an outspoken contrarian voice on the pandemic, said he had received only “abuse” from fellow scientists for questioning predictions of catastrophic death tolls.

Sounds all too familiar doesn’t it?

Michael Levitt questioned very early on whether the virus was as dangerous as it was being portrayed, thus questioning the measures being put in place to mitigate its impact, but he was drowned out by howls of outrage from the domain experts using human lives as their shield and wielding the formidable ‘precautionary principle’ as their sword.

Using statistical analysis across different countries with varying degrees of lockdown, Professor Levitt has repeatedly and publicly argued that the virus slows far earlier than would be expected if everyone was susceptible, possibly indicating some kind of prior immunity.

Just 15 per cent of the population needs to be infected to reach herd immunity, he believes.

“The data had very clear things to say,” he told the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, an annual gathering of prizewinning academics and young researchers, itself moved online due to coronavirus.

But when sharing his results, “nobody said to me, ‘let me check your numbers’. They all just said, ‘stop talking like that’,” he said.

He may have been wrong. He may still be wrong (but the lack of huge numbers of deaths and ongoing research into immunity suggests he is not. But the point is, the domain experts keen to convince politicians of their expertise and keen to have politicians listen to them, and them only, came down heavily on him, dismissing his valid scepticism, even though he is obviously an extremely well qualified scientist.

At the beginning of the crisis, scientists failed to collectively ask basic questions like “does this thing grow exponentially”, said Professor Levitt, Robert W. and Vivian K. Cahill professor in cancer research at Stanford University.

Physicists and theoretical chemists “who understand trajectories” were often better qualified to analyse the pandemic than epidemiologists, who “see their job not as getting things correct, but preventing an epidemic”, leading them to overstate the threat, he argued in a debate on the role of science in a crisis.

“We should never have listened to the epidemiologists,” Professor Levitt said. “They have caused hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of suffering and damage, mainly on the younger generation,” he said. “It’s going to make 9/11 look like a baby story.”

Now look where we are, because we let a few ‘experts’ like Professor Ferguson of Imperial College and others convince us that Covid-19 was far more dangerous than it has actually turned out to be (barring a rather unlikely extremely deadly second wave or hidden deadly long term consequencs arising from being infected, even in those experiencing mild or no apparent symptoms).

Where epidemiologists differ from climate scientists though is that they are not immune to inconvenient data and research, which is pouring in all the time re. Covid-19, undermining the original assumptions about the impacts of the disease. Deaths have declined to single figures in all areas of the UK and the ratio of deaths to hospitalisations has declined also, suggesting either that treatment is better or the disease has already become less deadly, or both.

There’s also a steady stream now of research by immunologists suggesting that many people have innate prior partial or full immunity to Covid-19 (via exposure to other coronaviruses – a “dumbshit theory” according to Steven Mosher), thus significantly lowering the herd immunity threshold from Ferguson’s estimated 60 or 70% to 15-20%. Ferguson’s model imagined a runaway freight train hitting the buffers at full speed with hundreds of thousands dying absent interventions (but not full lockdown, I might add – that was a political decision) from government. The ‘immunological dark matter‘ consisting of T-cells in human bodies exposed to other coronaviruses is a heavy loco breaking steadily in front of this runaway train, slowing it down and eventually stopping it in its tracks.

In the Telegraph yesterday:

Large numbers of the population may have natural immunity against coronavirus even if they have never been infected, scientists believe.

Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University, who is leading an Oxford team to develop a vaccine, said there was likely to be a “background level” of protection for a “significant number of people”.

Recent studies have suggested the immune system can be primed by other coronaviruses, such as the common cold, giving the body a head start in fighting off Covid-19.

Research shows that a separate part of the immune system, T-cells, respond to chains of amino acids produced by different types of coronaviruses and may be responsible for stopping the virus in people who never show symptoms. Crucially, those T-cells die off in older people, which may be why they are far more likely to develop a more serious illness.

“There is certainly evidence that people who have been infected with Covid-19 have not developed antibodies but have developed a T-cell response, and that would be likely to protect them against another infection. I think you have to keep an open mind about whether you have a large number of people who have protective T-cells in the absence of antibodies.”

A recent study suggested children may be protected from coronavirus because they catch so many colds. 

Unlike other conditions, such as flu, children rarely develop a severe case of Covid-19 even though they appear to catch the disease as much as adults.

The common cold is caused by four different types of coronavirus which circulate in the community and are largely harmless. But while adults pick up a cold around two to four times a year, school age children catch an average of 12 colds annually, studies have shown, which may give them an advantage in battling off coronavirus.

But yeah, stop the kids from going to school, stop adults from getting so close to one another, force them to wear masks when there isn’t even an epidemic, thus reducing their exposure to other coronaviruses and therefore possibly inhibiting their T-cell mediated natural immunity. Now deaths have declined to single figures, it’s all about local lockdowns and stopping infections among adults and children which are highly unlikely to lead to an increase in deaths or more widespread re-emergence of the virus (the dreaded second wave), rather more likely to delay the UK reaching the probable 15-20% herd immunity necessary to contain the disease naturally. Makes sense doesn’t it?

These three tweets from Professor Balloux say a lot:

By shutting down schools and by keeping silly ‘bubbles’ in place when (if) they go back in September, the government may be seriously reducing T-cell mediated immunity from developing in younger children especially, who have not been exposed to the full range of coronaviruses.

Meanwhile, back in the climate domain, the ‘experts’ at the Met Office carry on regardless in their claims of how dangerous anthropogenic climate change is going to be – because nobody can really check their wild claims unless they happen to have a Tardis. Thus, a new study by (of course) Stott of the Met and other scientists purports to demonstrate that 40C temperatures in the UK will happen on average once every 3.5 years under RCP8.5 (groan) and once every 15 years on average by 2100 under a “medium emissions scenario”. It’s not an emissions scenario, it’s a concentration pathway, dummies! Didn’t you get the memo from Richard Betts? If though, like Michael Shellenburger, you dare to say that climate change is real, but it’s nowhere near as dangerous as has been made out and we’re probably not going to be fried by heatwaves every few years, you get cancelled by the climate obsessed and doubts cast upon you by well known (C)AGW believing scientists named Rice on account solely of the types of people who have promoted your opinions.


  1. This is not a coin with two sides but thousands of sides. I have just learned, for example, that a peace-loving relative of mine who was standing in local elections for one of the democratic parties in Hong Kong has been beaten up by the HK police so badly that he’s needed to be hospitalised. The situation there is causing people I love tremendous grief and so it matters to me. Yet the story I have just told you is not the one you would hear from the CCP regime. Science included. This is how all unequal power disputes work.

    The pragmatic issue we all face is which conflicts matter the most. Each of us needs to make that decision. I don’t personally find the UK’s stumbling efforts to find the right ways to deal with Covid-19 the second most important thing on Cliscep after the climate crisis scam. But that’s just on Cliscep, where the name reminds us of the number one concern we share.

    Strangely enough, on Twitter last night I had an opponent try to use my views on climate as a reason to discount them on the transgender issue. This was all triggered because of an honest question from an ICU nurse who was a victim of child sexual abuse as a very young girl. (Sue is someone I have had the honour of meeting twice in real life, which isn’t always the case on social media.)

    These are two other issues that matter to me. In both one sees the same syndrome, the same attempts to avoid evidence and select the ‘experts’ who will tell you what you want to hear. It’s everywhere. We won’t find that all our climate sceptical friends have the same priorities on all these other issues. Thank goodness! A bit of randomness is the only way to get results in such a complicated and deceitful world.


  2. I’m pointing out the real parallels between epidemiological modelling and climate modelling Richard, both of which involve making projections of ‘dangerous impacts’ with associated large uncertainties and which rely upon implementation of the precautionary principle to form the basis of decision making by politicians. I’m talking about the striking similarity in the way Levitt has been treated by fellow scientists when expressing his lockdown/Covid scepticism to the way sceptical scientists have been trated by their colleagues in academia when questioning climate change dogma. Nothwithstanding this, the world is a f***d up place with bad science, bad ideologies and bad people doing real harm right across the globe. The West danced happily to the tune of the Chinese Dragon for years; now they’re getting burned, or rather the people of Hong Kong, which they handed over to a repressive, violent, evil Communist regime, are getting burned. Taiwan is next. The real harms from lockdown are not so obvious, but they are coming down the line.


  3. The thing is, my judgment is that in the UK lockdown is ending. I don’t see Leicester as the thin end of the wedge but the thin end of the end. I could be wrong. Whatever parallels you see only matter to me if there is a vast harm to come as a result. At the moment. Later it will be very interesting to come back to. But hopefully before that the ‘climate consensus’ and its related gravy train will have taken a significant hit.


  4. The propensity to trust theory rather than observations has surely ruined climate science, and as Jaime points out is contaminating medical science as well. Another example comes in the search for effective treatments of Wu Flu. From a recent French meta-study:

    “The major elements of this study are that, overall there is an extremely significant difference between the analyses of data not collected directly by the doctors who cared for patients and the studies carried out by the physicians who set up these studies and cared for patients, including the randomized studies. The second thing is that in these studies conducted electronically, the treatment is never really specified, with the dosage and duration of treatment making it impossible to assess efficacy (dose too low) or toxicity (dose too high). In addition to this major bias, we also noted a significant bias when the authors had conflicts of interest due to their relationship with industrialists trying to market molecules in the same therapeutic framework competing with HCQ.

    Overall, and as previously published, the relevance of the analysis of important medical data depends on clinical accuracy (4). Indeed, the discrepancy between clinicians and epidemiologists reflects a major trend, that of the analysis of large medical data, with database warehouse more or less well filled by individuals who are not directly included in the work reported. This analysis is unrelated to the observations made by physicians who are in direct contact with patients and which lead to divergent interpretations and opposite conclusions, which are of real interest and show that the world predicted by Baudrillard (39); that of a parallel world of numerical analysis completely disconnected from reality; is being born.”

    Sound familiar?

    And then there is this parallel:

    More at HCQ Hit Job by Big Pharma Data Miners

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Ron, as pointed out on another thread, there has recently been published another clinical study which demonstrates fairly conclusively that HCQ, HCQ/AZT reduces mortality significantly in Covid patients.

    Will Hancock now be recommending this drug for immediate approval in Covid cases as he did with his ‘wonder drug’ Dexamethasone?

    Meanwhile, after seeing the results (or not) of Cummings’ cunning plan to tackle coronavirus (who did come up with the brilliant idea of locking down Leicester because of an increase in positive Pillar 2 tests minus info on how many tests were actually done I wonder?) another part of Cummings’ cunning plan to tackle climate change is coming together:

    “An experimental plan championed by Dominic Cummings to tackle global warming by “sucking” carbon dioxide out of the air will receive £100 million from the Treasury.

    The prime minister’s chief adviser backs the development of a little known technology that can capture carbon in the atmosphere and store it underground, but the move has attracted scepticism in Whitehall.

    Sources said the project had been driven by Boris Johnson’s chief adviser, who has become an advocate for the technology and its potential in the battle against climate change.”

    Or is this just another media hit job on Boris’s chief adviser?

    ‘Dom had become obsessed by this,’ one Whitehall source claimed.

    ‘He’s the one who has been pushing it despite huge scepticism from officials. But he’s got his way.’

    MailOnline has approached Number 10 for a comment.

    Apparently not. Nice to know he’s pissing away another £100m on unproven technology to solve an unproven ‘climate crisis’, siphoned from an economy which has taken a £500bn hit due to closing down for a hundred days to avoid hundreds of thousands of deaths predicted by dodgy epidemiological models. It sucks, I know that; I’m just not sure it’s going to suck CO2.

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  6. The unintended consequences of the covid virus response will be long lasting. Media in the US, in support of the coup, is pretending that the virus is raging out of control by deceptively pushing the infection rate stats as is the equivalent of infection increase. That said, symptomatic infections are showing up in New places. Medical centers are not helping so nice they put out deceptively edited occupancy stats that imply full ICUs are due to covid, when a lot of the occupancy is due to non-viral health problems. At least some of which are due to deferred health care because of the lockdown.
    A lot of the new infections here are due to the cynical political and corrupt media (but I repeat myself) pretending that rioter’s motivation were respected by the virus.
    My current work outs me in close contact with 200 or more people walking in daily. Mant are elderly and poor. We take a lot of PPE precautions, and require the walk-ins to do the same. Our temperatures are taken daily. This is a two week assignment, so I guess I and my co-workers are going to be pretty good test subjects regarding exposure, PPE and infection. The herd immunity desperately needed, like bureaucratic responsibility and accountability, seems to be difficult to achieve.


  7. Hunterson, I heard that people who are admitted to hospital for other illnesses are being counted as ‘Covid cases’ if they test positive for the virus, thus inflating the figures for Covid admissions. I don’t know whether this is actually true or not, but I do know that the contacts of people who test positive are now being counted as ‘cases’ even if they are not tested.


  8. If Dominic Cummings is really responsible for the government’s Covid policies, that would explain Boris’s combination of bumbling ineptitude and total self-assurance. If he’s also going out on a limb on carbon extraction, that may be good news, in that when he’s forced out as a Rasputin-like scapegoat for all that’s wrong with Boris’s Britain, he may take carbon extraction and storage with him.

    If you’ve dipped into Cummings’ blog, you may have been impressed by his apparent mastery of problem-solving due to his huge erudition based on reading loads of books by very clever people you and I have never heard of. I was. He mentions somewhere hiding away for months at a time to do nothing but read – a solution to life’s difficulties which I find enormously appealing. Another person who recommended the same programme was Nobel prize winning novelist Doris Lessing. Her writing style is as exciting as an old sock, but her thoughts on race, gender and the world were original and enlightening in the sixties. This was probably due more to her being a white feminist founder member of the African Communist Party than to her reading habits. She ended up being a fan of Sufi mysticism and writing terrible science fiction.

    I’m going to find it difficult at my age to renounce an idea I’ve always found attractive – that reading makes you clever. I suspect what makes you clever is thinking hard and sharing your thoughts with others. I think ATTP might agree with me there.

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  9. Here’s one of the ways I don’t think Covid and Climate contrarianism can possibly be anything like the same and we shouldn’t pretend they are. I should say before I start that my sister’s close friend in her forties, who was badly infected with Covid-19, is still alive, which is truly amazing, but the damage done to her lungs is frightening. And I’ve been listening hard to Alan Kendall’s experience.

    That article is worth a read, starting with the experience of a fit 32-year-old in Glasgow 80 days after getting the virus. But the key thing, of course, is what Paul Graham (a well-known Silicon Valley venture capitalist) says here:

    With the ‘climate crisis’ we’ve all had since 1988 to see, from all the evidence, that it’s a crock with very damaging effects, given how ridiculously ‘mitigation’ has been defined and practised. That makes contrarianism a moral duty. With Covid-19 we don’t have even six months data. We can find fault with this or that but our attitude should be one of humility, compassion for those experiencing the sorts of things detailed above – and of course for those bereaved – and gentle hope that the ‘worst case’ as seen in five years time, say, will not be as bad as these anecdotes suggest.

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  10. The climate bullshit and mass extinction bullshit is very similar to the Covid-19 bullshit. The bullshitters themselves admit that it is:

    “COVID-19 is comparable to climate and extinction emergencies, say scientists from the UK and US – all share features such as lagged impacts, feedback loops, and complex dynamics.

    The dynamics of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic share ‘striking similarities’ with the twin environmental crises of global heating and species extinction, argue a team of scientists and policy experts from the UK and US.

    They say that lessons learned the hard way in containing COVID-19 – the need for early intervention to reduce death and economic damage; the curbing of some aspects of people’s lifestyles for the good of all of us – should also be at the heart of averting environmental catastrophe.

    “We’ve seen the consequences of delayed action in the fight against COVID-19. The consequences of continued inaction in the face of catastrophic climate change and mass extinction are too grave to contemplate,” said Prof Andrew Balmford, from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Zoology.

    Writing in the journal Current Biology, Balmford and colleagues argue that the spread of coronavirus shares common characteristics with both global heating and the impending ‘sixth mass extinction’.

    The similarities between the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic and environmental disaster lie not just in their nature but also in their mitigation, say the scientists, who write that ‘there is no substitute for early action’.

    The researchers include an analysis of the timing of lockdown across OECD countries, and conclude that if it had come just a week earlier then around 17,000 lives in the UK (up to 21 May 2020) would have been saved, and nearly 45,000 in the USA.

    They say that, just as delayed lockdown cost thousands of lives, delayed climate action that gives us 2C of warming rather than 1.5 will expose an estimated extra 62-457 million people – mainly the world’s poorest – to ‘multi-sector climate risks’ such as drought, flooding and famine.”

    For me at least, such unmitigated bullshit elicits the exact same sceptical/contrarian response.


  11. Jaime: I get it. You’re saying you’ve found some people on the other side of the argument from you on Covid-19 science and policy that are spouting gobbledegook to the power of tosh. Although that mighty phrase from a climate sceptic in January 2013 was about some people ostensibly on our own side, the ‘slayers’ who feel sure that the greenhouse effect itself is junk science. I think Martin A was right but that, happily, his correct evaluation didn’t entail the whole of climate scepticism being junk. And I think my broader point about the need for humility, compassion and gentle hope in the covid contrarian space still stands.

    It might be worth filling in how I think the anecdotal evidence for long-lasting damage from Covid-19 works out. This is admittedly speculative. I think our government and its science advisers are very aware of this anecdotal evidence but they have been at pains not to emphasize it. Because there hasn’t been time to prove how big an effect it is and it would lead to too much fear. But taking this into account could well have made them more cautious in deciding the precise nature of UK lockdown and then the lifting of lockdown. Those in five years time who are still suffering the ill-effects, say, may be echoing this from one distraught brother in the USA: “It breaks my heart. I feel so powerless and angry. Worst of all he got it from a coworker who broke all early guidance for their own selfish wants and ended up infecting their whole team.” As I’ve said before I don’t envy our policymakers.


  12. Richard, you are asking me to have humility and compassion for the unproven case with Covid-19 that there are significant long term harms associated with contracting the disease for significant numbers of people and that lockdowns are an effective way of preventing significant numbers of people from being infected with the virus. In the case of the latter, not only is the theory unproven but compelling evidence from the real world suggests that it is plainly wrong.

    You are also asking me to isolate my new found greater humility and compassion for victims of the Covid pandemic from the victims of the Covid pandemic lockdowns.

    “A new report published in the British Medical Journal titled Covid-19: “Staggering number” of extra deaths in community is not explained by covid-19″ has suggested that quarantine measures in the United Kingdom as a result of the new coronavirus may have already killed more UK seniors than the coronavirus has during the months of April and May.

    According to the data, Covid-19 only accounts for 10,000 of the 30,000 excess deaths that have been recorded in senior care facilities during the height of the pandemic. The article suggests and also quotes British Health officials stating that these unexplained deaths may have occurred because Quarantine measures have prevented seniors from accessing the health care that they need.”

    “With the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), countries and states have instituted lockdowns. These decisions have been difficult and are sometimes described as benefiting the public health at the expense of the economy. Fear of contracting the coronavirus in health care settings has dissuaded people from screening, diagnosis, and treatment for non–COVID-19 diseases. The consequences for cancer outcomes, for example, could be substantial.”

    There already has been a steep drop in cancer diagnoses in the United States since the start of the pandemic, but there is no reason to believe the actual incidence of cancer has dropped. Cancers being missed now will still come to light eventually, but at a later stage (“upstaging”) and with worse prognoses. At many hospitals, so-called “elective” cancer treatments and surgeries have been deprioritized to preserve clinical capacity for COVID-19 patients.

    Modeling the effect of COVID-19 on cancer screening and treatment for breast and colorectal cancer (which together account for about one-sixth of all cancer deaths) over the next decade suggests almost 10,000 excess deaths from breast and colorectal cancer deaths.

    This analysis is conservative, as it does not consider other cancer types, it does not account for the additional nonlethal morbidity from upstaging, and it assumes a moderate disruption in care that completely resolves after 6 months.”

    That’s just two types of cancer. You have other types to include. You also have fatalities from a whole spectrum of other killer diseases and conditions which are not diagnosed or treated due to lockdowns, not to mention the severe drop in quality of life and the suffering experienced by those who do not have life threatening illnesses, but nevertheless are experiencing delayed prognosis and treatment. But it doesn’t stop there. Significant rise in mental illness, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, especially among the young, who were never susceptible to Covid-19. Job losses and increasing poverty leading to lower life expectancy. A health service severely impacted by a major depression thus not able to deliver high quality health care. It goes on and on. The inevitable harms from lockdown are highly likely to dwarf the potential harms by not locking down. Thousands of excess deaths caused by lockdown even now are evident in the data. The projected hundreds of thousands of deaths (millions across the globe) are very unlikely to occur because the population does not, as claimed, have no prior immunity to this ‘novel’ virus and the infection fatality ratio of the virus is not anywhere near as high as originally assumed.

    True humility and compassion is only gained when proper perspective is achieved. As a society deliberately and calculatedly scared out of our wits into uncritically accepting the need for draconian and exceptionally destructive lockdowns, we are nowhere near achieving that perspective.


  13. Bill, if the government has political capital invested in any statistics, the default option is not to trust them and to examine them very, very carefully.


  14. Somebody needs to tell Cummings that spending millions on attempts to suck CO2 out of the air while merrily pumping it into the air in vast quantities at Drax – subsidised heavily by his government chums – is as dumb as rocks.


  15. Humility and compassion. Where has it been for the thousands of Alzhemiers sufferers who died inside their lonely, confused, isolated heads, deprived of the vital stimulus of visits from relatives – because Covid 19? Where has it been for the thousands who will die from preventable cancers? The suicides? The asthmatics coerced into wearing stupid, ineffective masks that do more harm than good whilst out shopping and travelling by a scientifically illiterate oaf ensconced in Number 10?

    What we do best here, surely, is examine the facts, the data, as it comes in and we keep a check on our emotive responses to the claims of any crisis resulting in death and destruction, as we have done effectively with the ‘climate crisis’, where significant harms have been claimed for increasing bad weather without reference to the significant harms which will arise from the imposition of net zero climate targets. Likewise, the pollution crisis, the extinction/biodiversity crisis.

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  16. Jaime. Despite reading all of the material you have written in various threads on Covid 19, I do not know what you would have done to prevent infections from the virus from overwhelming the NHS (as happened to hospitals in northern Italy). Nor do I understand your belief that lockdowns don’t work. In places where lockdowns weren’t imposed, like Sweden, I have read that their governments expressed a belief that their populations would obey distancing regulations voluntarily. As evidence now shows, no British government could realistically say that about its own population.
    You are the British Government charged with dealing with the pandemic, you have imposed austerity measures in the past decade, some consequences of which is a NHS with virtually no testing facilities, and perilously short of protective equipment. You are also being advised by epidemiologists who, in their worst case scenarios are predicting horrors (some of which are occurring in the USA and Brazil). You also have a local GP system that (if my experience is anything to go by) is shutting large parts of itself down out of fear.

    So, with the benefit of hindsight, what would you have done? We know you wouldn’t have imposed any lockdown, but you do now have recent examples of viral infection hotspots (Leicester) where lockdown regulations were deliberately breached.


  17. Alan, I think the problem stems from a misunderstanding of the nature of this disease and the choices the government made in the early days of the outbreak. There were a number of senior epidemiologists who suggested very early that the effect of covid would be similar to, maybe a bad, winter ‘flu outbreak. Instead, we had relatively inexperienced ministers trying to micro-manage what appeared, to them, to be some sort of zombie plague. Inevitably, mistakes were made in the NHS, in both organisation and treatment. which lead to a largely hostile MSM bouncing the government into a lockdown, based on the dubious assumption that everyone was susceptible to the virus.

    I am fairly convinced that covid-19 preferentially affects people with compromised immune systems and the age profile of victims is a consequence of that, rather being the main driver. These problems can be caused by both diagnosed and undiagnosed condition as well as conditions which are not treated too seriously. Vitamin D deficiency springs to mind here.


  18. One other thought about Covid-19. What I would REALLY like to see is a definitive description of how the Japanese dealt with the outbreak. They had very few deaths, even though the median age of their population is higher than that of Italy.


  19. ALAN KENDALL asks (06 Jul 2020 9.06am) “…with the benefit of hindsight, what would you have done?”

    I can answer this partly with foresight, because a lot of the stuff wrong with this government’s response to the crisis is wrong, period, and has been for decades.

    What I’d have done, if I’d been PM:

    1) cancel all pointless activities, including pontificating at a lectern every evening on TV. Explain what you’re doing and why, and bawl out anyone who accuses you of hiding from the media.

    2) spend time with people chosen by you. Starting with the essential ministers (those who can follow a technical discussion and do simple arithmetic) plus civil servants who can do the same. Don’t convene SAGE; choose just the people at SAGE who can argue a case. When they say something interesting or controversial, ask for their source, then summon the source. So, when the subject of Ferguson comes up, (almost immediately) ask who is Ferguson and what’s he done? Ask if there’s some other modeller whose results have been out by less than 1000%. If there is, phone him up and ask him to pop over to number 10 sharpish. If not, drop the subject of epidemic modelling and go on to the next item on the agenda.

    3) The TV news is showing air hostesses at Japanese airports shining thermometers on passengers’ foreheads. Why not at Heathrow? If the minister doesn’t know, phone up the airport owners, or the air hostesses’ union, or the manufacturers or suppliers of thermometers. If it is really impossible to stick an official with a thermometer at the airport exit right next to the last chance duty free gin shop, hire out-of-work usherettes with little torches. It won’t take the temperature, but it might dissuade potential tourists.

    4) That’s enough for the morning session. In the afternoon, tackle testing and how not to murder thousands of elderly people in care homes by foisting infectious hospital patients on them. Then masks for ambulance personnel. It’s not rocket science.

    I thought that this was the kind of thing that Cummings was up to (except that he was doing it by reading books by Nobel prizewinning quantum physicists.) It seems not.


  20. Bill Bedford. The main problem in my opinion was that the British Government failed to respond to the actions and warnings coming out of Asia. Clearly we did not have the resources or the preparation to do what South Korea or Taiwan did, but what did the Government learn from China? Did they really think China locked down Wuhan, converting it into a vast ghost city, and began to build new hospitals in weeks from scratch? Did they really think the Chinese did all this for “a bad winter flu outbreak”?
    The UK was about two weeks behind northern Italy with its overwhelmed medical services and rising deaths. Was this really considered by anyone in their right mind to be “a bad winter flu outbreak”?
    The UK had warnings but failed to learn from them. They could have insisted on quarantining everyone arriving in the UK from Covid 19 infected countries, but didn’t. Why? They could have insisted on an earlier lockdown but didn’t. Why not? Enforcement was a joke, with race meetings held, officials doing what they liked (even those who were giving advice to the Government or instructions to us) and unconventional eyesight tests being taken in County Durham. What an absolute shambles the Government and we were and still are. Dorset beaches were revelatory.


  21. For all the consternation about Leicester, it is interesting that the ZOE app estimates an infection rate of 0.8%, as against 0.3% for much of the rest of the country. At least at the moment it cannot be described as a hotbed of disease, unless you work for the BBC


  22. In another stunning example of the continuing confluence of Covid alarmism and climate alarmism, Sir David King – who set up the ludicrous ‘climate repair centre’ at Cambridge, is now advocating ‘Covid Zero UK’. It’s as mad and as bad as Net Zero UK and it comes from exactly the same type of fanatical pseudo science which informs insane climate policies.


  23. The fanatical pseudo science which informs climate policy is the same fanatical pseudoscience which informs Covid policy – not data, not facts, not contrarian research, but models:

    “Let’s go back to the idea of Covid taking half a million lives: a figure produced by modelling. But how does modelling relate to ‘the science’ we heard so much about? An important point — often overlooked — is that 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. Einstein is revered as a great scientist not just for the complexity of general relativity but because of the way his theory enabled scientists to predict things. This forward–looking capacity, repeatedly verified, is what makes it a scientific theory.

    The ability to look backwards and retrofit a theory to the data via a model is not nearly so impressive. Take, for example, a curve describing the way a virus affects a population in terms of the number of infections (or deaths). We can use models to claim that lockdown had a dramatic effect on the spread, or none at all. We can use them to claim that social distancing was vital, or useless. Imperial College London has looked at the data and claimed lockdown has saved three million lives. A study from Massachusetts looked at the data and concluded that lockdown ‘might not have saved any life’. We can, through modelling alone, choose pretty much any version of the past we like.

    The only way to get an idea of the real-world accuracy of models is by using them to predict what will happen — and then by testing those predictions. And this is the third problem with the current approach: a wilful determination to ignore the quality of the information being used to set Covid policy.”

    The comparison with climate modelling is stark and revealing.

    “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.”

    Lockdown scepticism is the same animal as climate scepticism, grazing on pastures new.


  24. I do wish that people here would not ignore the fact that some Covid 19 sufferers do not die, but nevertheless suffer. We are seemingly the Cliscep forgotten. It seems the argument is being made that people need not be protected from these non-lethal effects and only deaths matter in evaluating the course of this pandemic. In fact there are some who are beginning to even question the pandemic status of the viral infections – this despite the huge increase in numbers in countries like the USA, South Africa, Brazil and India.

    So a Bulgarian pathologist denies that anyone has died from Covid 19. Presumably scarred lungs and the like are similarly fictitious.


  25. Alan, the vast majority of people infected with SARS-CoV-2 do not die. It really is fatal to a tiny percentage of the populace. Of those who are infected, or whose immune systems are challenged by this virus, the vast majority experience mild or no symptoms. For the small number of people who experience moderate to severe symptoms, some appear to have health issues ongoing or even permanent lung damage. This is sad, not something to be dismissed and you appear to be unlucky in that respect. The facts as they stand though do not justify shutting down the world. You are not the ‘Cliscep forgotten’ simply because those expressing scepticism re. the response to this virus necessarily concentrate on the wider picture, not on personal suffering, either yours or others.


  26. Jaime. My mistake, should have been “Cliscep dismissed”, rather than “Cliscep forgotten”.

    Interesting that you respond to my post within 20 mins, whereas a much earlier one, asking how you would have proceeded if you had been in the Government with the information you had in February-March, and the opinions of ‘experts’ you consulted, that post went unanswered. I know that you have been opposed to any lockdown, so I was genuinely interested in what you would have had the UK do.

    With regard to other effects of Covid 19, we do not know the full effects. There are increasing reports of people with severe problems following the illness, and most worrying reports of them appearing in people with mild initial symptoms.


  27. Alan, you keep referring to these ‘reports’ but you dont link to them so I can’t comment. AFAIA, Covid-19 is not dangerous to the vast majority of people it infects. I’m not being drawn into saying what I would recommend re. a national policy, simply because I am not a policy maker, nor am I remotely qualified in that respect.. I comment only on the deleterious effects of the policy in place and the increasing data and research which suggests it was the wrong policy. You are neither dismissed nor forgotten and I specifically stated that, so I’m surprised that you state the opposite.


  28. Jaime. A common thread running through your writings on Covid 19 has been a strong, sometimes vehement opposition to a lockdown and calling those that implemented it names (you have a particular hatred (?) for Hancock). All I’m asking is – what you think ought to have been done instead?
    If you have no alternatives to a lockdown, does this mean you would have done nothing or the barest minimum? If we should have isolated the vulnerable in care homes, why shouldn’t we have imposed a more universal lockdown? I’m trying to understand your logic, but am failing miserably.
    And please stop making this entirely personal. I can disagree with you without reference to my own experiences, but why should I? My opposition is on general principles.


  29. Alan, it strikes me that you were the one making it personal by claiming to be the ‘Cliscep forgotten’ on the basis of your personal experience.

    That aside, I have made it abundantly clar that, in principle, I did not oppose initial government policy in closing down the country to prevent the NHS being overwhelmed and to save lives, given the uncertainty about the impact and nature of the virus at the time (though it could be argued that even in March, there were wise heads advocating against lockdowns). My main bugbear with this government is that they changed the goalposts when it was clear that the impact from the disease was nowhere near as bad as was projected and they have stubbornly stuck to their original policy, defending it absurdly by claiming it has saved ‘hundreds of thousands’ of lives, when the data and accumulating research suggests the opposite. In doing so, they have caused immense, irreparable social and economic damage to this country and in all likelihood, CAUSED the loss of many thousands of lives. That makes me angry, very angry. The corruption of science and data for political purposes makes me angry. Hancock makes me particularly angry because he actually appears to enjoy inflicting pain upon the British public whilst scaring them witless with unsubstantiated pseudoscience. I make no apologies for being angry and expressing that anger, even to the point of publicly declaring the government to be “bloody incompetent” which phrase now appears to be deemed ‘offensive language’ on this site.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. I don’t agree with Jaime’s conclusions of personal incompetence; impacted governments of every flavour across the world have been doing very similar things, which suggests there’s a much bigger force at work than the incompetence of a few individual politicians in any particular country. And however future history will eventually view the evolution of the science, there’s still enough choice and confusion in play among ‘experts’ and citizen scientists alike, to allow governments to still react to that force. Which force largely represents the fear of their publics (amplified by the media), and which albeit waning still appears to have plenty of “you’ll kill us all” life left in it, and is still backed by many pundits and ‘experts’. However wrong this might one day definitively be revealed to be, does not mean it isn’t still a significant force for mass major bias and pressure upon politicians (most are sensitive to mass opinion whatever else they do) and policy makers. However, Jaime has every right to express these views, which also we cannot know are wrong, and even to express them vociferously, without sanction. As for the use of ‘bloody’ forming any kind of reason for sanction, that’s just bloody ridiculous. Seen on side of Sky broadband installation vans recently: “no one’s meant to blow the bloody doors off”. (after the Michael Caine quote). For a very long time in UK English this has been just an emphasis word, and not any kind of beyond the pale obscenity, even in the context of discussing individuals.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. P.S. Nor is the absence of sympathies for named or unnamed individuals or groups, any kind of basis for implying that such sympathies don’t exist. Nor any basis for invalidating any arguments made in their absence. The wokerati would have us believe that any argument absent personal experience, or not laced with sympathy for the personal experiences of others, is perforce invalid. This is not so. And the “Cliscep dismissed” is not a general principle. Notwithstanding which this aside all Alan’s arguments are perfectly valid and valuable too, but don’t invalidate Jaime’s. Afaics the two streams seem to be largely about different things. *IF* (strict / excessive) lockdowns have not reduced deaths (or at least nowhere near as much as touted), they would likely not have reduced associated damages to survivors anywhere near as much either. Lockdowns do or don’t reduce populational infection, not the range of severities that will occur once infected. *UNLESS* the lock-down is targeted at the vulnerable sub-demographics, which hasn’t been done here (or anywhere else afaik); in fact to very contested amount (re care-homes) and in many countries, maybe the reverse.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Thanks Andy. Johnson is now planning to make mask wearing compulsory in all shops. When the epidemic has virtually ended, when hospitalisations and deaths are nearing zero, when there is a 1/3900 chance of being infected according to ONS figures, when you have more chance of dying under the wheels of a bus than you do of dying from Covid-19, when the introduction of such a policy will devastate the high street, induce even more mass paranoia and more likely negatively impact the health of wearers. It’s beyond bloody incompetent now; something else is going on. We’re not going to be able to feed ourselves unless we comply with this outrageous and unjustifiable imposition upon our personal liberty.


  33. “…when you have more chance of dying under the wheels of a bus than you do of dying from Covid-19…”


    There must have been a series of accidents today that I am unaware of, ‘cos 48 people died of Wuhan Flu.


  34. JIT, indeed. Only about 5 per day for road traffic accidents (albeit 76 per day for ‘killed plus seriously injured’). Still an order of magnitude less deaths, and in fact the daily average of covid over the last week is 74, so higher still.


  35. Jamie Apart from numerical inexactitudes (discussed above) have you not observed the effects of the relaxation of measures designed to keep Covid 19 at bay, in places as diverse as Melbourne, Leicester and Phoenix? Yes I hear you reply, they are increasing cases, not deaths. But a newly infected person only has to wander across the path of a newly liberated shielded person and…. What will be their first words – Oh I’m feeling a bit off colour today, but it’s nothing?
    Although I have seen speculations to the contrary, I have seen no uncontested evidence that Covid 19 is losing potency – it can still be lethal.


  36. JIT, they contracted it weeks ago (more likely than not in a care home or hospital setting) when the chance of being infected was greater. The median age of fatalities is also around 80. Note also that it is extremely unlikely that a healthy person suffering from no serious complicating illnesses will die OF Covid-19. I was talking about the average person wandering around a supermarket or out shopping. In case you hadn’t noticed, they don’t tend to be octagenarians. I thought these points might have been obvious, but obviously not.


  37. Jaime,

    “I was talking about the average person wandering around a supermarket or out shopping. In case you hadn’t noticed, they don’t tend to be octagenarians.”

    You obviously don’t spend as much time as I do in M&S Foodhalls, hovering around the ready-meals counter whilst waiting for yellow label stickers to be applied 🙂

    On a more serious note, the following journal article seems to offer the most up-to-date scientific data on the issue of long-term COVID-19 symptoms:

    Liked by 1 person

  38. Alan: “It can still be lethal.” Well clearly, but so can hundreds of other diseases potentially contractible in this country. That’s not the issue.

    “I have seen no uncontested evidence that Covid 19 is losing potency…”

    ??? Notwithstanding some local lumpiness, the total UK death count has been falling inexorably since about the last week in April, and apparently unaffected by any BLM protests, save-our-statues protests, Bournemouth beach ‘violations’, or any lock-down relaxation measures to date. Where is this continuous reduction contested?

    As with the curve for all countries in late stage, the gradient is levelling as it falls, so it will be a very long indeed, thin tail. Several countries having fully or largely exited lock-down, have re-applied it for certain local areas, including Spain and Germany, but such areas have not made any dint on their still reducing national figures. Whether or not that’s *because of* the caution of local measures, is part of the debate about lock-downs. But on the assumption that such local measures *are* effective, so far they have only been needed in a small minority of locations, suggesting only some statistical lumpiness on a nationally reducing problem.

    Liked by 1 person

  39. Jaime, “I was talking about the average person wandering around a supermarket or out shopping. In case you hadn’t noticed, they don’t tend to be octagenarians.”

    It’s always better to say what you mean, e.g. something like: for people under 60 with no co-morbidities there’s more chance of dying under the wheels of a bus. But people outside that bracket like go to the shops and behave normally as well. I can see there are plenty of pensioners including some who clearly look like octogenarians in Tesco’s on weekday mornings (and including my partners parents, who are definitely octogenarians). Which of course raises the topic of targeted shielding / protection measures, which hindsight suggests may have been a much better measure right from the off.


  40. Andy, what evidence is there that the virus has mutated into a less lethal form? Reduced incidences might well reflect the success of a lockdown or better survival rates.
    I’m more worried by the worldwide occurrence (and recurrence) of this virus which was dismissed by some (no names, no packdrill) as a virus no worse than a seasonal flu. In case people haven’t noticed we are into our third season and it’s still killing people. It’s also rampaging through countries that don’t have seasons or which are experiencing a warm season.
    Against most seasonal flu we have preventative vaccines, we have nothing proven to work against Covid 19.

    My greatest fear is that we will take our eye off the ball with respect to real seasonal flu. Concentrating efforts into defeating Covid 19 we will reduce efforts to combat next year’s flu and many with damaged lungs (from Covid 19) will succumb.


  41. I’m just not doing this anymore. I will leave people to their nightmares generated by listening to government propaganda and media scare-mongering. My ‘flu comparison specifically related to the current estimates of the infection fatality rate of Covid-19 and seasonal ‘flu, which are similar. But the goalposts have now changed and it’s the entire world we should be worrying about and how Covid-19 is rampaging through tropical countries that don’t have well defined seasons.

    Well here are the figures: 564,000 Covid-19 deaths globally so far, 95% of them in over 65s.

    Swine ‘Flu is estimated to have killed 150,000 to 575,000 in the first year and 80% of those deaths were in generally healthy people under the age of 65. Other pandemic strains of ‘flu have killed a lot more generally healthy people (1957 Asian ‘flu for example).

    Then there’s ‘common’ seasonal ‘flu. The WHO stimates that it kills up to 650,000 a year, EVERY YEAR – that’s WITH vaccination. Most of its victims, unlike pandemic ‘flu strains, are the elderly and those with existing comorbidities (just like with Covid-19). But Covid-19 is MUCH more dangerous than common old seasonal ‘flu apparently, because we don’t shut down the world every winter.

    So, where’s the killer plague rampaging across the globe then? The unique disease in all of history which caused us to shut down the world, so deadly was it that it was absolutely imperative to contain its spread lest it wiped out millions or even billions of people?

    Scepticism on this site appears to be dying. Facts no longer matter as much as fear.


  42. Alan: “Andy, what evidence is there that the virus has mutated into a less lethal form?”

    That’s a completely different question than the one you said was contested. The virus (which is many mutated threads anyhow) may have both more and less virulent forms together, and for sure is not homogenous. And for sure too it’s still progressing through the countries that were impacted later in the chain, but indeed because they’re later in chain 0: And typically, viruses evolve to be net more benign, because they can’t spread or survive so well in very incapacitated or dead people. Plus the chief factor in current fatalities is likely not its evolution, but both inherent (genetic diversity) and immune system (long and short term, i.e. prior corona virus waves, and dynamic re-alignment to the current one) populational resistance. Which all act to reduce it’s targets within the population. I make no detailed comparison to flu, but you said there was no uncontested evidence that it was ‘losing potency’ wrt fatalities, yet the constant declining death rates of all the early impacted countries whatever their various states of unlock (including complete) and also despite numerous mass violations, is not contested at all. Albeit it is largely the characteristics of the population and not the virus that explains this. If strict lock-downs *have* formed a key reduction component, it is also vital anyhow that unlock also occurs when its purpose is served, and not only because all sorts of other deaths and hardships will result. Lack of seasonality (should this turn out to be largely true in the long-run, first waves may often have less such anyhow), does not necessarily equate to ‘worse’. It’s one characteristic out of many, and coming in waves with a different evolved attack formula each time is not necessarily ‘better’ for us.

    I have no idea whether medical authorities will take their eye off the ball or not regarding normal flu. But I should imagine that everyone and his dog will be more not less aware of viral incidents of any kind, plus definitely much better kitted up regarding PPE and general viral management. However, if people do maintain an inappropriate fixation on one virus only, then perhaps indeed your fears could come true; all the more reason to process the data as objectively as possible. The four corona viruses that already circulate in us as common colds may well have arrived from similar events (and per Matt Ridley, the last one maybe as recent as 1896). Added to which we’ve probably endured endless waves of long-faded corona variants stretching back to before we were even human. So indeed we’ll likely have to live with it for centuries at least, as we live with many other diseases. The good news is that highly likely medical technology will come up with vaccines (or a constant stream of them if it’s a fast evolver like flu) to hugely accelerate our ‘normal’ accommodation of such predations.


  43. P.S. I don’t agree with Jaime’s views on personal culpabilities. But the numbers are the numbers and she is spot on that these should form a baseline to our understanding and strategy, albeit being humans we should use our giant brains to improve at every pass for a new disease or variant. And its absolutely true too that panic short-circuits our giant brains.


  44. @Jaime

    Disagreement is an essential part of scepticism, I reckon. Otherwise it would be like Invasion of the Bodysnatchers (the original still the best).

    A detailed side-by-side of swine flu, Wu flu, and seasonal flu would be informative, but there are many complications to consider. At face value, Wu flu > swine flu because the deaths owing to swine flu in the UK were 400 vs 40k for Wu flu so far. (Complications include its arrival in late spring, the presence of a vaccine within months of arrival, etc.) For seasonal flu, of course it could well be as bad or worse as Wu flu every winter, but it ain’t, because of vaccination protecting at-risk groups. (I seem to remember the take up of the vaccine in those groups is 70%, and of course in some years the vaccine is no good.)

    There is probably a middle ground here somewhere, finding which ought to be the point of debate. I’m perhaps a little irrational about Wu flu: I’m still avoiding restaurants and pubs (sorry restaurants and pubs! I’ll be back after my jab). On the other hand because I get the flu jab every winter, fear of flu has never stopped me going anywhere.


  45. JIT, as the discussion moved from the UK to the world, I quoted the H1N1 estimates for global deaths. Swine ‘flu didn’t have much of an impact in the UK for whatever reason – though Ferguson predicted a reasonable worst case scenario of 65,000 deaths! Just like his model suggested 510,000 deaths in the UK from Covid if no mitigating measures were put in place. As Alan mentions the US as an example of a country where Covid is currently rampaging, it is instructive to know how the CDC is reporting deaths. Steve McIntyre is not impressed. In fact, it’s actually worse. Death certificates from weeks ago are being revised and re-assigned as Covid deaths and are only now just being reported, creating an illusory ‘uptick’. I wonder if they’ll go full-on hockeysick?


  46. This article by Mike Witney from the Unz Review demonstrates convincingly that Sweden got it right.
    I link to the Zero Hedge version because the ZH editor adds a fascinating statistic:

    [ZH: in Sweden (pop. 10.25m) – where there was no lockdown, huge international criticism of its strategy, and one of the highest fatalities per head in the world – only 70 people under 49 years old have died of Covid-19, out of 5,482 total virus deaths (1.3%) so far. For context, average annual deaths in Sweden over the last 5 years for under-49-year-olds have been 3,417. ]

    So Covid-19 has accounted for approximately 2% of deaths of the under-fifties. The other 98% of deaths of the young(ish) are presumably due to the usual suspects: alcohol, drugs, road accidents, suicide, murder… plus some serious illnesses. The question is: how much destruction of society are you willing to put up with to prevent a 2% jump in preventable deaths among the active population? (Sorry to be so brutal about it, but the death of us oldsters is not “preventable,” only “put-off-able.”)


  47. Sweden graph of excess deaths since 1980. Covid is a moderate spike that discontinues briefly a long downward trend.

    Sweden deaths per million compared to UK. Please point out where lockdown made all the difference.


  48. Re Sweden: “…and one of the highest fatalities per head in the world”

    But still behind Belgium, the UK, Spain and Italy, in that order. All with higher density populations.


  49. By Christopher Snowdon in the Telegraph today, pasted in full for those who cannot read the article:

    “There have been times during this pandemic that I’ve felt as if my memory is playing tricks on me. I’m sure I remember scientists telling us that a second wave was inevitable. I could have sworn I saw a graph at the press briefings showing a scary bell curve of infections in the spring and an even scarier one in the winter. I’m sure I heard experts explaining that the only way COVID-19 would disappear would be when herd immunity was achieved, either through natural antibodies or vaccination.

    Official documents reassure me that I am not going mad. The minutes from a Sage meeting in March say: “Sage was unanimous that measures seeking to completely suppress the spread of Covid-19 will cause a second peak.” As far as I can tell, this is still their view. Suppressing a wintry virus during the sunniest spring on record could turn out to be no great achievement. The worst may be yet to come.

    One country can look to the winter with less trepidation than most. Last week, a study suggested that 30 per cent of Swedes have built up immunity to the virus. It would help explain why Covid-19 has been fizzling out in Sweden. If a measure of herd immunity also helps them avoid the second wave, Sweden’s take-it-on-the-chin approach will be vindicated.

    Not going into lockdown was described as “a mad experiment” by Marcus Carlsson of Lund University in March. Dr Cecilia Söderberg-Nauclér of Sweden’s Karolinska Institute accused the government of “leading us to catastrophe”, and predicted that the healthcare system would collapse unless a lockdown was introduced. Every model predicted an exponential rise in infections.

    With half of humanity living under lockdown, photos of Swedes socialising in bars and restaurants seemed like communiqués from another dimension. Aside from a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people, life carried on as normal. Children aged under 16 went to school. No one wore a mask. This, surely, was the calm before a terrible storm.

    The catastrophe never arrived. As in most other European countries, Sweden saw a peak in Covid-19 deaths in the first half of April followed by a steady decline. Shown on a graph, the pattern of mortality is indistinguishable from that of many countries that locked down. Its daily death toll rarely exceeded double figures and has been below 30 since mid-June. As in Britain, half the deaths were in care homes and two-thirds of those who died were aged 80 or over.

    Once it became clear that their apocalyptic prophecy had failed, critics of the Swedish approach turned to post hoc rationalisation. They cited low population density and a high rate of single person households as the explanation for Sweden’s lucky escape. Some claimed that social distancing was a natural part of Swedish culture or that Swedes did not talk enough for virus droplets to be transmitted. Some of this was true and much of it was nonsense, but none of it had been mentioned in March when Sweden was said to be doomed.

    It is now considered gauche to compare Sweden to Britain, Italy, Spain or any other country that had a higher death rate. You are only allowed to compare it to its immediate neighbours where the death rate is lower. Mention the UK or, heaven forbid, Belgium (which locked down a week before the UK and has the highest COVID-19 death rate in the world) and you will be told that they should have locked down sooner. The proposition becomes unfalsifiable. Heads they win, tails you lose.

    The goalposts have shifted. The purpose of lockdowns is no longer to protect health systems, but to prevent death at any cost. New Zealand has managed to eradicate the virus for the time being, but only by kissing goodbye to its biggest export industry – tourism – which sustains ten per cent of its economy and fourteen per cent of its workforce. Isolated from the rest of the world, it is a prisoner to a vaccine that may never be found.

    Australia thought it had beaten the virus, but parts of Victoria are back under lockdown after new cases were found. There have been resurgences in the United States, Israel and South Africa, to name but three. Winning the battle against the first wave may prove to be like the invasion of Iraq, merely a prelude to a long war of attrition that wastes more money and lives.

    If there is hope of avoiding a second wave, it lies in contact tracing, but the NHS Test and Trace remains unproven in summer, let alone winter, and businesses will still be faced with crippling social distancing rules and – worst of all – the public’s fear of going out. For all the talk of ‘Super Saturday’, only five per cent of us went to the pub last weekend. A recent survey found that only 21 per cent of us would be comfortable eating in a restaurant.

    And what of the costs? Sweden will not be unscathed by the global recession. Its GDP is expected to decline by 5.3 per cent this year. But GDP is expected to fall by 8.7 per cent in the Eurozone, by 9.7 per cent in Britain and by more than 10 per cent in Italy, France and Spain. Sweden has not put its children’s education on hold. It has not put its citizens under soul-sapping house arrest. If a vaccine goes into production by autumn, the Swedes will look reckless. But that is not going to happen – and winter is coming.”

    I ask again, why is this government so insistent on limiting infections, now, in the summer months, when there is the real chance that the entire country might get near to herd immunity prior to winter, thus limiting the impact of a second wave (if it happens)? Why did they lock down Leicester when deaths and hospitalisations were declining, but ‘cases’ (positive tests) apparently rising? The #scumMedia are now salivating at the prospect of a Christmas national lockdown because of a severe second wave of ‘coronavirus’ deaths. Who will we be to question why there are so very few ‘flu deaths but so many Covid-19 deaths over winter 2020/21? The government no doubt will initiate a campaign of mass ‘flu vaccination ahead of winter and that will be the reason why so few people are dying from the seasonal ‘flu. It could be very cold this winter too – a result of global warming, for which we must urgently plan a Green recovery, by firstly banning gas boilers. But I’m just a cynic.


  50. To add to JAIME’s questions:
    Why is the British government suddenly getting obsessed about wearing masks, an obviously efficient method of limiting the spread of the virus, NOW, when it’s all but over? What effect can this possibly have but to enrage the average voter/shopper/pub visitor?

    Why is the French government suddenly getting obsessed by the danger of importing the virus via air travel, just when they’ve opened up air travel to save the tourism industry, having closed it, risking the death of Air France and Airbus?

    There are no rational answers to these questions that don’t involve something that can be accused of being a conspiracy theory. Cock-up doesn’t hack it, since they’ve had six months to iron out the wrinkles in their policy. A French journalist on tonight’s news spoke of “stress testing” the public, and it seems like a fair description:

    “Let’s see how far we can go in riling the electorate. This will provide useful data when we have to apply even more dictatorial methods in the coming economic/environmental crisis -cum-global conflict. And the moaners and groaners will reveal themselves, so we know who we have to lock up when the time comes.”

    There’s little political risk to these insane policy zigzags, since there are no elections due in major Western democracies. Except in the USA, but who believes that Trump knows what’s going on?

    Since Andy is here, I’ll refine my conspiracy theory a little. Sweden is not a member of NATO. Nor is Switzerland, the source of much of the medical scepticism.

    Liked by 1 person

  51. A few months ago, when the epidemic was in full swing, government scientists were saying that there was no advantage to be gained from healthy people wearing masks and, according to Jenny Harries, it could actually be detrimental. Now, at the tail end of the epidemic – as measured by numbers of deaths and hospitalisations and an ONS estimate of the percentage of infected people (0.03%) – they suddenly change their mind and say wearing a mask will help stop the spread of Covid-19 and save lives. Well, it might help in preventing ongoing infections, though the scientific evidence is not conclusive, but saving lives? That is completely unsubstantiated. Wearing a surgical mask or face covering will NOT prevent you from becoming infected – only a tight fitting FFP2 or FFP3 mask will assist in significantly reducing that particular risk. Stress-testing the public, deliberately delivering the coup de grace to the high street, or purposely limiting infections so as to make a second wave more severe, we can only guess. Incompetence and idiocy just don’t seem to be rational explanations. Not even Boris could be that stupid.


  52. Geoff, “There are no rational answers to these questions…”

    Exactly, because rationality is not in charge. And any decent conspiracy worth its salt requires a great deal of rationality. Still, stress-testing publics the world over and including many not in NATO, to expose the inconveniently dissenting rabble and for the greater glory of the ultimate uber-NATO regime that is to emerge like a triumphant king out of the chaos, at the almost trivial cost of massive damage to everything and everyone, is at least a good one for for some twirly-moustacheoed comedy. You seem to have an avid fascination for complex rational, albeit dastardly, explanations for stuff happening in the world that has far simpler but not rational (rather, emotively driven) explanations. Humanity has lost its head over many prior pandemics and made just as many seemingly random decisions. Including daft conspiracy theories too. Oftentimes in plague-ridden Europe people would turn to burning Jews they suspected of deliberately spreading the disease (an irony being that this sometimes included the best doctors). Or they waited by wells and if a stranger came for a drink, grabbed them and hung them, because they likewise *must* be spreading the disease. Or revolted against authorities they suspected completely wrongly of using the plague to thin their numbers (very daft, because there wasn’t enough labour after a wave, and this helped with peasant pay / conditions). Or blamed it upon priests who were clearly not ardent enough, hence helping to causing a religious schism (another irony being that the Church was often trying to help, and yet via networks could actually be a nexus for the spread too). Or of course it was a direct punishment from God, so extra prayer and penitence was needed to escape it. If pinning it on NATO or other Western organisations doesn’t work out for you, you could try, say, the Russians, or indeed the Chinese would be very apposite this time around (ah… you tried that already I think). Or why not Islam? That’s been tried before in history. You missed out the CIA (explicitly anyhow), but you did include Boris and his dastardly plan to bully Leicester. So why are you always always picking on Western orgs, are you becoming woke or something? And it could be the international Commies, you know (ah… sorry, I forgot). Well whatever, but if all those fail why not simply revert to the old faithful tropes of history? Now there is a Zion and it has Mosad, should be much easier for you this time around. Or you could just wait by your local pharmacy and hit the next stranger over the head. They all go to the chemists, right? That must be where it comes from!


  53. “…deliberately delivering the coup de grace to the high street…”

    I’m not saying it’s necessarily rational or right or wrong, I have no idea what research, if any at all, it is based upon. But one of the given reasons for masks is to energise the high street. Because apparently much of the populace is still too frightened to go there (and I have seen comments to articles that at least anecdotally verify this in many people). But if everyone wore masks, they apparently may feel safe enough to go (not because their personal mask would save them personally, but because everyone else’s masks would be cutting down the viral spread indoors).


  54. Andy, convincing the terrified masses to start shopping as normal again, people who you deliberately terrified by pushing out daily propaganda on death figures, telling them that everyone was vulnerable, that they should stay at home and stay safe and not hug their family or even see them etc. etc., whilst telling them that mask were uselss, then telling them a few months later that masks work and shoppers will be safer if they wear them, doesn’t sound like a sane policy to me. You will just end up confusing half the population, pleasing maybe a few die-hard bedwetters who just love the idea of being invulnerable to germs by wearing a face nappy, and the rest of the populace who think it patently absurd for mask wearing to be made compulsory at this stage you are simply going to drive away from shops. I estimate about 5% of people are wearing masks voluntarily in supermarkets round here. That means 95% feel they are not at significant risk by not wearing them. How are those people going to react when they are told they MUST wear a mask to do their shopping?


  55. “…doesn’t sound like a sane policy to me…”

    I didn’t say it was. But it has been given as a reason; I think it was Boris himself who I heard say it first (or read online). The point being, rightly or wrongly, disastrously or possibly even successfully, it is a reason intended for economic gain and not economic pain. And as noted, I’ve no idea what it’s based on. But something appears to be keeping people away; super-Saturday for pubs for instance was expected to get to 20% of prior custom but only achieved 5% (not that you can wear a mask while drinking anyhow!) My nearest big town is still semi-deserted.


  56. Andy, I suggest people are not visiting pubs because they are required to give their details and because of the extremely unwelcoming atmosphere. Pubs are supposed to be jolly, social, relaxed, convivial places. They are more like hospital morgues at the moment. It will be the same with shops. I’m certainly not going to wander round supermarket aisles wearing a muzzle, looking at everybody else doing the same, for no rational reason whatsoever. I’ll shop online or visit farm shops for food. I will never set foot inside a supermarket again if Johnson goes through with this – and I fear he will. This government is tearing apart the economic and social fabric of this nation and the damage will be permanent. The worst part of it is that it appears to be a deliberate scorched earth policy.

    Liked by 1 person


    If pinning it on NATO or other Western organisations doesn’t work out for you, you could try, say, the Russians, or indeed the Chinese would be very apposite this time around (ah… you tried that already I think). Or why not Islam? That’s been tried before in history. You missed out the CIA (explicitly anyhow), but you did include Boris and his dastardly plan to bully Leicester.

    No, I’m pinning it quite definitely on Western organisations. If I don’t say “the Deep State” out loud it’s because I don’t want to be identified with the kind of people that do. Intellectual rigour or cowardice? I expect you to be conscious of these things.

    So why are you always always picking on Western orgs, are you becoming woke or something? And it could be the international Commies, you know (ah… sorry, I forgot).

    Is what you forgot that I’ve sometimes claimed to be a Marxist? If I’m picking on Western orgs, it’s simply that “Western Orgs” seem to have an attitude, and indulge in antics which have no rational explanation. Other countries, less blessed with the belief that they have the monopoly of scientific knowledge, simply seem to get on with dealing with a crisis. In China, the government says: “do this,” and the people do it. That’s a big plus for a highly disciplined society. It’s open to anyone to develop a conspiracy theory that the Chinese propagated the virus to demonstrate their superiority in dealing with crises. But their efficiency doesn’t demand an explanation. Our extraordinary incompetence does.

    Well whatever, but if all those fail why not simply revert to the old faithful tropes of history? Now there is a Zion and it has Mossad, should be much easier for you this time around. Or you could just wait by your local pharmacy and hit the next stranger over the head. They all go to the chemists, right? That must be where it comes from!

    Why would I do that? The massive failure of capitalism was evident from late 2019. Something, anything would reveal the fact. COVID 19 did it. The prior conference on pandemics and the military games in Wuhan suggest the possibility that the West engineered the whole thing. Why not?
    Why would those who killed hundreds of thousands in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya in nonsensical wars, not start a global pandemic? And what’s Mossad got to do with it?


  58. “Other countries, less blessed with the belief that they have the monopoly of scientific knowledge, simply seem to get on with dealing with a crisis.”

    So which list of non-Western countries are dealing with it much better? [minus China, dealt with below]. And why do you assume that not dealing with it well anyhow, means that a rational yet dastardly motive must be cause, when instead actually reacting to the raw emotions of their publics is what democracies are very attuned to doing? (for better or worse).

    ‘In China, the government says: “do this,” and the people do it.’

    No. They don’t do it unless the gov gets heavy. For instance despite knowing likely consequences, the people actually set off investigating and reporting this disease properly, only for doctors and journalists to be disappeared or get forced to sign false confessions etc. Only *then*, the relevant professions did what the gov said, i.e. stayed stum until the whole thing blew up in the government’s face. And neither were the public much disposed to lock-down until they started getting welded into buildings and forced by all possible leverage so to do. Whether or not that was effective in blunting the disease, is that what you think should happen in the West? Do you not think that the virus wouldn’t have got a good start if the gov hadn’t completely inappropriately used its weight to shut-down the initial proper reaction? Are these the kind of things you think that publics in the West should just comply with when a government says ‘do this’? I think folks far less passionate about freedom than Jaime might just be completely on fire if that was attempted in such publics, and rightly so too. A couple of million Uighars aren’t doing what the gov says over there either, and they’re in re-education camps because of it. And that’s the point, the gov can only get its subjects to do what they want through fear and intimidation and constant monitoring plus propaganda, albeit it is far more subtle than a re-education camp for most of them. And I think Hong Kong are not dying to just ‘do this’ like the gov wants them to do. Good for them, and Boris too for giving them a path to UK citizenship. And if, as is unlikely but still possible, the thing leaked out of a Chinese lab researching bats, then this whole thing is monstrous Chinese incompetence in the first place. Plus I’ll take Western incompetence over massive abuse of power any day, like the China squeezing the WHO for instance.

    “No, I’m pinning it quite definitely on Western organisations.”

    But you never have even the slightest scrap of evidence. You are just playing with porn motives. And so it might as well be anyone who gets fingered, as it has been throughout the ages in history, as my above very briefly pointed out. Saying that you can think of motivational reasons (even if much less vague than ‘identify the dissenters for the coming new uber-regime’) why org A or politician B or whomever might possibly be motivated to initiate a string of disaster (which would also be completely unpredictable so rather tricky regarding an actual plan), does not constitute evidence of any kind whatsoever.

    “Why would I do that?”

    Because most (I guess not all) your various incarnations of conspiracy theories are so completely devoid of support they amount to nothing more than memes about whomever one is blaming for stuff this week or month. And hence you may as well use the old memes as the new ones. Just as evidence free and emotively laden.

    “Why not?”

    Because even in its own terms, it makes no sense whatsoever. Why trash everything in order to attempt to prove that if everything would later be trashed anyway, it’s not your fault? That’s far worse even than risible. Everyone loses even the people you think may gain, and who are these people anyhow? And your reports of the death of capitalism are somewhat premature, it hasn’t failed at all. 2019 was not any kind of exceptional year, notwithstanding pre-Brexit in our little corner. Like it or loathe it, the thing is still huge and kicking and has very little competition. Heck, even the Chinese had to create capitalism in a bubble to compete. Wokeism may do it nearly as much damage as covid if its free-reign continues, but it’ll probably survive both just fine. Not to mention the Green Blob, which uses the mechanisms of capitalism itself to undermine the whole energy system on which it relies. But it’ll probably survive that too. When we’re all living like the poorer Victorians again, we’ll know its failed. Meanwhile poverty is still shrinking, health and longevity is still growing, and the biggest spreader of those things is trade and democracy (which don’t have to be explicitly capitalist associated, but mostly are currently). Pre-covid, conditions in this country and elsewhere had exceeded the state prior to the big recession, by a couple of years. And not only does you supposed motive make no sense even in its own terms, per the last conversation there wasn’t even any circumstancial evidence whatsoever; the times don’t work out as noted back then. I think you have not provided a plausible “Why?” in any form.

    There are various sorts of different wars, tectonic, proxy, revolutionary, brother wars (civil war). They are long term phenomena that abide by certain rules. As has been said by someone or other famous, the kings and politicians only choose the day and the field, not that there will be a fight. However, that said and even if we largely ignore such a baseline, there are traceable geo-political surface ‘reasons’ for war, however abhorrent we may (or even may not in some cases) find them, which have at least plausible patterns to them as reflected by cultural clashes and long-term political party stances and grandstanding and geographical boundaries and such. And even the whims of dictators on occasion. But none of the stuff you’re putting up has any geo-political (or even dictatorial) solidity. At best it is very poor SPECTRE fiction visualisations. Even if these visualisation far better matched the usual motivations, you don’t have a shred of evidence for anything. Your argument amounts to, these dudes have been to war, why can’t they do anything randomly bad including trashing the planet, including our own piece (and conveniently forgetting when sticking to the West that all dudes everywhere on Earth have been to war and constantly do, and that we have done so right back to when we diverged from chimps, who also formally waged war). Perhaps it’s their fault for begetting us.

    Liked by 1 person

  59. Jaime, “I will never set foot inside a supermarket again if Johnson goes through with this…”

    Well I’m all for freedoms, but I think that’s a bit OTT. Given you are young, in several decades time there won’t even be anyone who remembers why you’re still executing such self-imposed martyrdom 😉



    Your argument amounts to, these dudes have been to war, why can’t they do anything randomly bad including trashing the planet, including our own piece (and conveniently forgetting when sticking to the West that all dudes everywhere on Earth have been to war and constantly do, and that we have done so right back to when we diverged from chimps, who also formally waged war).

    By bringing in the chimps you’ve generalised my argument to nonsense. My argument is that “these dudes,” far from behaving as primates always have, are currently behaving in a way that can’t be explained away as culturally normal. It might be some form of mass hysteria, like climate nerves or the Xhosa incident. In which case there’s nothing to be done. I kind of hope there’s method in their madness, since it can then be discussed and opposed. And a hidden method is a conspiracy, in the current jargon.

    When we invaded Russia twice (and lost) and China once in the past two centuries we were behaving in the kind of normal chimp-like fashion you describe. Even fighting and losing fifty odd wars all over the planet during the past 70 years can be described as “normal.” (And so can China’s treatment of the Uighurs.) And part of that normality was the fact that there were two sides to every argument, two possible attitudes to each event. You didn’t have to wait for the Charge of the Light Brigade to be opposed to the invasion of Crimea. Suddenly 70 years of Realpolitik has been replaced within a few years by what appears to be mass hysteria, which has affected left and right alike.

    To stick to just one example which you raise: Hong Kong. Describing people who trash their parliament while waving the flag of their colonial ex-rulers as “pro-democracy demonstrators” is madness. Enraging a much more powerful state which we depend on economically by offering a million or so of their citizens asylum in Britain is madness. Encouraging the Hong Kong protestors in their illusory belief that they we are going to save them from being Chinese, when we’ve signed a treaty saying that they are, is madness. It looks as if its designed to provoke the Chinese into committing a Tian An Men-style massacre. But what would be the point of that? It’s morally repugnant, since it’s encouraging the entire youth of a successful society to destroy their own futures, if not risk their lives. And there’s no opposition to this disgusting, doomed policy.

    It might be a psychological thing, an unconscious atavistic desire to take revenge for the Boxer Rebellion, or sock Genghis Khan one in the eye. I prefer to at least entertain the possibility that there’s a cunning plan behind this. And behind Western policy in the Middle East, and in their otherwise bizarre attempts to brand Putin as the devil incarnate.

    Your accusation that I have “not a shred of evidence for anything” is an exaggeration. Do you have any evidence that our interventions in Hong Kong are motivated by our desire to foster democracy and freedom? I have evidence that it’s not. It would be inconsistent with our avowed desire to suppress freedom and democracy in Venezuela for a start. It’s in the nature of this kind of discussion that the only evidence available is circumstantial.


  61. Andy, for as long as any shops demand I wear a mask to enter their premises or (perhaps in a year or two’s time) demand that I show evidence of my vaccination against Covid-19, I will not set foot back inside any of them. It really is getting to that stage. It’s not martyrdom, it’s the choice whether you comply with the ‘new normal’ or you don’t. Anyway, it seems the government might have stepped back from what Boris was hinting at strongly only a day or two ago. Gove now indicating masks won’t be made compulsory. Maybe they were just stress-testing the populace and realised that it would not be a good idea, considering the public reaction. Who knows.


  62. Jamie
    “Lockdown was a complete waste of time, wasn’t it?”

    And deaths per million were compared for Sweden and the UK and are comparable, with similar peaks. From this it is concluded that the UK lockdown was ineffective.
    But looking at the rising death curve for the UK note that this curve starts more or less 2 weeks before the peak, and furthermore is matched by the Sweden curve. Those deaths could not have been prevented by any lockdown because the victims will have contracted the disease earlier. Then with the enlightened policies of our health establishments and government we continued to unload elderly patients to retirement homes and the like, not even bothering to establish whether they were infected with the virus. No wonder the death toll kept high in those homes. And care workers went home, perhaps shopping for food on their way, where they met, say postmen and rubbish collectors who spread it far and wide.
    So why did the death rate stay high, before slowly declining? I don’t know, but more and more stories are coming out of people breaching the lockdown (in addition to those providing essential services) if only for short periods. The impressions I have are 1) for the elderly the virus is extraordinarily infectious with victims commonly, but not always, reacting badly, 2) it was a considerable time before the existence of Covid Marys was recognised – spreaders with no or only minor symptoms, and 3) lockdowns must be extraordinarily porous. But is this an argument for not trying?

    We still know very little about this virus, where it came from and whether it will return in force when the weather cools. All this talk of immunity, yet the slightest genetic modification could send it through our societies yet again. Listen to the telegraph wires, stories of early stage successful vaccines, others broadcasting fears that no vaccine will be ever be possible; herd immunity caused by incredibly low numbers of people resistant to or recovered from the virus, other stories requiring much higher exposures, HQC effective, HQC dangerous, and so on and so on. Who to believe, whose stories are wrong? Why not castigate those that disagree with you or haven’t made up their minds as succumbing to fear?

    Well yes I’m afraid, I’ve had a brush with it and am weakened. I’m probably now immune, but not necessarily if it comes back as a varient. And my fear is that a seasonal flu hits that I am susceptible to. If our government spends most of its effort and treasure on combating Covid19, to the detriment of preparing for seasonal flu I suspect we will face hard times. I am elderly, but not ready to go yet. So Jamie, I am (to use your word) bloody scared.


  63. People in masks won’t encourage me back into shops, it will discourage me. This may be a tad irrational, but the power of instinct should not be underestimated. Rather than tell my intellect that the area is now safe, the ubiquity of masks is likely to tell my instinct that the area is contaminated. Would shops feel safer if the workers were in hazmat suits?

    Funny how things seem to revolve around China. I would like to read an authoritative history of how the West cocked up so mightily in assuming that China was on its way to being a liberal democracy, if anyone knows of one. The rebalancing we’re seeing now is rather difficult now China is the world’s factory.


  64. ANDY WEST said:

    “Meanwhile poverty is still shrinking, health and longevity is still growing,”

    That may be true in the G77 countries, but in the West, we have a situation where the top 0.1% of the population have become insanely rich while those in the bottom 50% have not seen their incomes increasing for more than 20 years. In the US, at least, health indexes and longevity have fallen, mainly because their medical establishment has become less of a health-service and more of a vehicle to extract rents from the population.

    Then there are Nett Carbon Zero and the pandemic lockdown, both seemingly designed to perpetuate economic austerity, which, has generally transferred wealth from the poor to the rich. And now we have BLM and a general upsurge in wokeness which has had the effect of making censorship, at least online, more acceptable to many people.

    Is this a conspiracy? Who knows, maybe it is, but maybe it is just the outcome of a capitalism that sees asset value and rent extraction as being more profitable than actually making and selling stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

  65. Alan, you have every right to be concerned for your own health and safety and to take precautions as you see fit. My guess is that this government will initiate a mass ‘flu vaccination campaign ahead of this winter and ‘strongly advise’ all those vulnerable (which includes myself) to get vaccinated. Given that ‘flu mutates each winter and that vaccines have only limited success, combined with dubious overall benefits, I won’t be getting vaccinated. I certainly would never be vaccinated with an experimental Covid innoculation. ‘Flu is dangerous, especially if you’re still recovering from serious illness and my best advice to you would be to use the summer months to get out and about, mix with as many ‘germ carriers’ (people) as possible and get as much exercise as you can, and eat well.

    Sweden’s curve is very similar to most other countries in Europe, lockdown or not and I suspect that the infection rate peaked in most European countries in Feb or Mar. What we are seeing now is a more widespread community-based infection which – thus far – is not translating into any significant rise in deaths or hospitalisations. Sweden is probably ahead of the curve in that respect and probably close to achieving nation-wide herd immunity, even if that only lasts for 6 months to a year, though if T-cell immunity plays a significant role, it could be much longer. The reason that Covid-19 infections do not appear to be translating into more deaths is a mystery. It may be that Covid-19 is only very dangerous in hospital and care home settings, it may be that already the virus has mutated to a less virulent form. There is a possibility of course that the virus may mutate into a more virulent form ahead of winter, but there is not much in the way of hard evidence to suggest that is a realistic possibility. What is real is that current restrictions are strangling the economy, destroying the mental health and physical well-being of the nation and destroying our cherished freedoms and way of life.


  66. There’s a really obvious reason why more infections is not leading to a similar rise in deaths: a lower average age of infection. The media in the US have pointed out the lower age, but largely ignored the lower deaths.

    The “second wave” is not really a second wave. It’s a “delayed by lockdown” first wave.

    Liked by 1 person

  67. “My argument is that “these dudes,” far from behaving as primates always have, are currently behaving in a way that can’t be explained away as culturally normal.”

    Why? All societies at all times have waged war, throughout the entire of history, and this is in no way exclusive to the West or to any society or era.

    “When we invaded Russia twice …”

    While I agree with your generic point on behaviour, who is ‘we’ ?? Britain, for instance, was on Russia’s side in both those conflicts. And Europe was in no way homogenous during both too. Largely, individual dictatorial states drove the action in each case, driven by their own emergent cultural movements. While we may view one much more sympathetically than the other regarding what triggered said movements and how they then panned out, both were bent upon expansion of their movements by force as far into everyone else’s territory as they could possibly get.

    “Suddenly 70 years of Realpolitik has been replaced within a few years by what appears to be mass hysteria, which has affected left and right alike.”

    A significant component of Realpolitik is reacting to the expression of older and entrenched hysteria’s, projected onto territorial and and resource maps. The fact that new hysterias regularly come along, of which some latch-in for the long term and some fade away again, is also nothing new and has always occurred. Only the particular nature of the hysterias varies, but it’s a detail given the same behaviours are always in play. I think the issue for you to consider here is highlighted in your own expression – why do you think that behaviours stretching indeed back to the chimps have suddenly changed ‘within a few years’ – hint, they haven’t – you are only seeing the new leading edge of what they have always been.

    Re Hong Kong. Morally repugnant?? Madness?? The HK residents are not defending some long-gone colonial power, they are voluntarily and passionately defending their own rights and freedoms from a hugely oppressive state. And while that state is huge as well as hugely oppressive, that is more not less reason to oppose, and to become much less dependent upon it ourselves (and for Europe generally). At least covid has been a wake-up call to governments world-wide of the predatory nature of China, which has pulled every lever and then some to try and mitigate its damaging actions. How hugely defeatist to say HKers should just roll over and accept their unenviable fate. Their risk is their own, this country has not pushed them, we essentially did not oppose all Chinese pressure until the HKers themselves drew the line and China walked across it with their new law. Offering HKers a path out to a place where their freedoms can still be preserved, is exactly the morally most laudable thing to do, and in part because it involves danger for us and our economy too. While doing something morally right might still be driven by the appropriate motivation when it happens also to be convenient or at least is neutral, it takes more courage to still follow that path when it involves risk. After much appeasement, we took a much greater risk in 1939 against a highly oppressive state far more armed and ready than us, and stood alone against it for a year at enormous cost. Appeasement does not work. It seems China will be thrown out of 5G here soon, and indeed as pointed out in the Spectator recently (sorry, no link) most Chinese investment here has been very one sided and is inevitably always leveraged outside of merely commercial arrangements; so time to draw back from that.

    “It might be a psychological thing, an unconscious atavistic desire to take revenge for the Boxer Rebellion, or sock Genghis Khan one in the eye.”

    This is far too literal, not to mention skipping the last century which has redefined China. You still appear to lean to some sort of ‘rationality’ explanation even for the underlying cultural trends, but that is not how they work.

    “I prefer to at least entertain the possibility that there’s a cunning plan behind this.”

    For what? By whom? Two systems with different ways of existing, interacting, projecting their influence, are experiencing increasing friction as China expands. HK has the behaviours of one system yet lives in the geographical territory of the other. It seems you have no idea what cunning plan or from whom, yet somehow you still need to believe their *must* be one, when the above reality explains the action on the ground. What extra would any such cunning plan ‘explain’?

    “And behind Western policy in the Middle East…”

    Nothing that completely hopeless, that confused, that intermittently and emotively driven, that conflicting (with prongs of peace and war, help and missiles) with a very similar long-term history stretching back to when the Byzantine empire was the Christian bulwark against Islam and both struggled with Jewish settlement and identity issues in the area, and indeed before, could possibly be the result of any ‘plan’. The Middle East is a cultural quagmire that neither East or West has ever been able to deal with, ever since there became an East and West, between which this territory has also been the buffer zone since at least Alexander and the Persian empire.

    “…and in their otherwise bizarre attempts to brand Putin as the devil incarnate…”

    Why? This also happens with extreme regularity with all sorts of leaders. Heck, even leaders who are supposedly *inside* the West, never mind outside. For instance branding Trump evil is a regular major industry. Even if a great deal regarding Putin is inappropriate, and some even highly inappropriate, why should a dictatorial leader who works against journalistic and other freedoms in his own country, and warps the constitution to try and stay in power forever, escape the tar brush. Many others less deserving of tar have not escaped in history. It’s just not conceivable that he would. Come to that, even the (prior) most renowned leaders in our *own* country, like Churchill, are receiving tar. Granting innocuous, let alone challenging, characters immunity from tar, is just not how people act, en-masse. And incidentally, a huge component of the issue re false accusations are those who propose wholly unsupported conspiracy theories! which have a tendency to spread due to their emotive appeal.

    “Your accusation that I have “not a shred of evidence for anything” is an exaggeration.”

    I think this lies within our different views of what ‘evidence’ is. You have here in the past (I don’t know the location) pointed to events matching speculated motivations as ‘evidence’. This is no way no how the case. You do similar below re Venezuela.

    “Do you have any evidence that our interventions in Hong Kong are motivated by our desire to foster democracy and freedom?”

    No. But I never claimed to that I could prove this. I do claim that there is nothing outstanding which any dastardly plot is required to explain.

    “I have evidence that it’s not.”

    Please share.

    “It would be inconsistent with our avowed desire to suppress freedom and democracy in Venezuela for a start. It’s in the nature of this kind of discussion that the only evidence available is circumstantial.”

    This is not evidence, even of a circumstantial nature. And even if I 100% take your word that the current regime within Venezuela actually stood for freedom and democracy. It would be inconsistent. Well with individuals as with governments, inconsistency is common. Which in no way, shape or form, is evidence that there must be a conscious dastardly cunning plan re HK. And in practice, I recall reading on wiki a year or so back, hardly a bastion of right-wing bias albeit not really reliable, that Venezuela was a failed state long before the US ramped-up their initial sanctions to actually bite. And while also I might question how unbiased surveys can be in that scenario, Pew last year claimed enormous lack of faith / support in the ruling party. Future history may or may not prove these things wrong, yet meanwhile this means that even the claim of merely inconsistency using Venezuela as a case example, is highly challenged.

    Your guidance on this site and your role in climate scepticism is nothing short of brilliant. Your ability to bring together folks with different world-views, and indeed sympathise with same way outside what may be limiting boundaries for others, your perception that can often grasp the nub of arguments even when folks don’t express them well (from which I have directly benefited), your huge amassed knowledge of the world and obviously high intelligence, have all earned my huge respect. Which incidentally is not lessened in any way by the above conspiracy proposals. And I’m not annoyed by same, as you once implied. It’s no skin off my nose, *except* in that I’m flummoxed why all that talent should occupy itself so frequently in various imagined dastardly plots for which there is no evidence or even need. If you truly think this path is productive, do a Steve McIntyre on such theories; find some actual evidence. I get the impression that you are starting with feelings about who must be the bad guys, and working backwards to pin something on them. If they do happen to be guilty in some cases, this is almost guaranteed to put everyone *off* the scent. Steve finds actual evidence and then pulls the threads to see who might have some credible entanglement to being guilty, whoever this might upset (e.g. per some climate admirers regarding his Syria threads).


  68. Jaime, “…for as long as any shops demand…”; a wise step back from the martyrdom of ‘never’. While St Jaime sounds good, ‘never’ is a long time for the cause 😉


  69. Bill,

    Per your cites, I already acknowledged both wokeness and greeness preying upon capitalism, and covid causing much damage too. I doubt they’ll bring it down, but who could ever know?

    ‘Continuous’ health and wealth improvement in all nations (utilising capitalist process) is never a smooth process except viewed on the largest timescale. For sure countries or regions can stagnate for a while, which can look like a huge deal viewed from the inside, microscopically so to speak, and indeed *is* a huge deal for many individuals involved. But it isn’t a huge deal at scale. And nothing like the 1930s has happened in recent times despite the last big recession, though in principle it still could. Whatever, none of this means that the system has failed, albeit looking back from long future history, it *could* be a first indication of failure. For now, upon that larger scale, it is still a smaller blip than many in the past, and limited as you note to richer countries (who can most afford the blip, notwithstanding many unfortunate individual impacts).

    The fact of the super rich is an interesting dilemma. If (as is more the case in modern times), they are the key enablers of innovation and advance that result in better services / technology / lifestyle for us all, and indeed (again on that largest scale) the ultimate continuation of the upward graph for everyone, do we really mind that the gap gets bigger even as the baseline rises? I genuinely don’t now the answer to that, but I don’t think the size of the gap is an indicator of the system not working, even if we also don’t regard it as a desirable consequence.


  70. Jaime, “Given that ‘flu mutates each winter and that vaccines have only limited success, combined with dubious overall benefits, I won’t be getting vaccinated. ”

    Just curious, what individual downsides are there that contribute to the ‘dubious’? Limited success is not no success; what subtracts from an individual’s improved chances? (And by extension the community’s chances too, due to less spreading).


  71. Jaime. I too was surprised to find you an anti flu vaccinatee. I have argued to be an early recipient of the annual flu jab, and only once in the past ten or so years have I developed flu. That year, I read, the medical profession was inaccurate in its guess as to which virus was expected. I will be beating a path to my doctor’s door to get my flu jab this year. I only hope the Government will have had enough NHS money left (I don’t have your confidence, but hope to be proven wrong).

    With regard to face masks, they are intended to protect other people from YOUR potential virus-infected droplets. In this regard they are indeed effective. Thus, if I currently am immune, I still will wear a mask in the presence of strangers, for their protection and to give them greater confidence – I hope there are few like Jit put off by facemasks.

    Liked by 1 person

  72. Alan, Andy,

    I very rarely get the ‘flu. I think I’ve had it once, fairly badly, in the last 20 years. When I lived in London and was more of a socialite, I got some very, very bad cases of ‘flu, the worst shortly after I got vaccinated for yellow fever. If the risk is high and the effectiveness is high, then I’m all for getting vaccinated, but in my case now the risk of me getting ‘flu or passing it to others is low and the effectiveness of the 2017/18 ‘flu vaccine was only 12.2% in my demographic. Weighed against the possible drawbacks of getting an annual ‘flu vaccination (and they are real, but ignored or dismissed by the majority of the medicl profession), I have made the decision not to get vaccinated.


  73. Jaime, the first link lists no downsides, only variable effectiveness per season and for strains, which I thought was common knowledge by now anyhow. It can go between 10 and 90%, I’ve read in the past, though more typically towards the lower end than the higher, but often 30 or 40% depending on age-group and other factors. It still cuts risk. I’m surprised to see the autism thing raise it’s head again, I thought that had been researched to death by everyone and his dog by now. But increased risk for some strains is a new one on me. However, I note the actual Skowronski paper on same says: ‘Prior receipt of 2008–09 TIV was associated with increased risk of medically attended pH1N1 illness during the spring–summer 2009 in Canada. The occurrence of bias (selection, information) or confounding cannot be ruled out. Further experimental and epidemiological assessment is warranted.’ Looks like the jury was still out then. But given this was 10 years ago, one would have thought there’d be much more by now. Did a quick search but couldn’t find much.


  74. Jaime,

    Interesting. it looks like if there is potential negative benefit, it’s a feature of many serial vaccinations. It ought to receive more attention. I guess the ideal formula would then be 2 years on, 1 off, or whatever is the best mark-space ratio to maximise effectiveness longer-term (which also should be researched).


  75. Tangential but necessary: South Africa banned the sale of alcohol and tobacco as part of its efforts to contain Covid-19. The alcohol ban was quickly rescinded but the baccie ban is still in place, either to keep lungs as healthy as possible when Covid hits them or, more likely, just opportunistic health nannying.

    Reading that makes me want to revisit my own journey towards quitting smoking, which for a very long while involved smoking dried and chopped onion skins. Ooooh! I can still smell and taste that sweet, sweet oniony blast.

    Blast! I’m off to check if my onions have smokable skins. And it’s been five years. Damn you, Africa Check!


  76. Andy, it’s not quite the same, but I learned that annual booster vaccinations were not a good idea for dogs some time ago. Vets and pharmaceutical companies pushed them for a long time and it’s now generally accepted that they are not necessary and can in fact trigger auto-immune diseases like arthritis. Current guidelines now stipulate 3 years between booster vacs.

    Vinny, smoking onion skins? Seriously? I guess you’ll have no problem with social distancing if you take it up again!

    Liked by 1 person

  77. Vinny. The method I used to give up smoking eons ago is simplicity itself, that is if you can discipline yourself to resist smoking for 24 hours. Even though I used to smoke a pack a day, I found this abstinence not too difficult. I convinced myself that I wasn’t giving up smoking and that the next day I could, and would, resume. But having been smoke-free for a day, I reasoned that doing it for another 24
    hours would not be too difficult. For me I never told myself that I was giving up, because the next day I could resume. This regime continued for weeks, then months until the craving had gone. After nearly a year I smoked a single cigarette, it was delicious! I knew I had broken the habit, but could easily get it back. I haven’t smoked for coming up to 50 years. Put difficulties in the way of obtaining a new packet of cigarettes and keep away from other smokers!
    I take no great pride in giving up smoking. My technique is simple, you trick yourself you are only giving up for a day. It did help considerably that my smoking buddy at work decided to give up at he same time. He used what might be called the “brute force” method. An ex-Hungarian geologist (escaped to Canada in 1956), he had just decided to give up smoking (although he would secretly “borrow” a cigarette from a workman now and then.
    I’m interested in the onion-skins method. This would certainly drive other smokers away and none of them would swap ciggies with you.


  78. “There is only one sure way to deal with the coronavirus which has plunged the world’s economy into recession and killed (so far) more than half a million people. A vaccine.

    The global race to develop one has been extraordinary in its scale and speed. As a result, it is thought possible that a vaccine might be approved as safe for general use as early as this winter.

    For a vaccine to create the ‘herd immunity’ required, it is necessary for between 70 and 90 per cent of us to receive such an inoculation. And the hitch is that more people than ever before have joined the ‘anti-vaxxer’ movement.

    At last year’s Conservative party conference, before the coronavirus emerged from China to haunt the world, Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, floated the idea: ‘I think there’s a very strong argument for having compulsory vaccination for children when they go to school, because otherwise they’re putting other children at risk.’

    It is only when the public believe that the virus is tamed that full confidence will return to our interactions with our fellow citizens: then ‘social distancing’, perhaps even face masks, can be cast aside, and the blight of mass unemployment in ‘consumer-facing’ industries can be ended.

    This hits the anti-vax nail on the head. Its campaigning is all about the way people say they ‘feel’, far removed from the complex and even intimidating world of scientific and medical research.

    So it may well be necessary, when the coronavirus vaccine becomes available, for the state to ask the most popular, rather than the most qualified — how about Prince William? — to inoculate the public against the anti-vaxxers.”

    You see how it works now? The Vaccine is the ONLY thing that can save us from The Virus and all these nasty, horrible, repeated lockdowns, social distancing and masks which have become the necessary ‘new normal’ in order to fight off this killer plague. The Vaccine is the magic bullet that will end all our suffering, but we have to believe in the Science and the pharmaceutical experts who have certified that it is safe and effective. Get vaccinated – ‘for the greater good’. Those who resist are not looking at science and facts, they are relying upon ‘feelings’ and social media misinformation campaigns.


  79. Geoff: ‘When we invaded Russia twice (and lost)’

    …ah, I’d completely flipped for some strange reason to the bigger invasions of Russia (France and Germany). Sorry. As noted, I agreed with that point anyhow.


  80. Boris is just toying with us now. Hinting again that the government will make mask wearing mandatory after all, despite what Gove said. There won’t be an end point to this lunacy; it will be just kept in place indefinitely until it becomes patently absurd (more absurd than it is now) or shops stop enforcing it or they develop an untested vaccine and make it de facto compulsory by removing the right to live life normally for all those who decline to be vaccinated. So, to clarify, I will not be going into any shops for the foreseeable future if our moronic PM flexes his authoritarian muscles once again and makes life in the UK even more miserable than it already is.


  81. You obviously haven’t tried smoking onion-skin ciggies, Alan. They’re delicious! Everyone would want one. The smoke is very sweet and you get a decent hit in the back of the throat. It’s best to dry the onion skins in a microwave first. No nicotine, or very little, but perhaps a few traces of pesticides, so probably not a method that would ever get official approval.

    Onion skins did get me off tobacco, probably with the aid of a bit of nicotine gum, but these days I’m a vaper, so still haven’t quit properly.

    I might try your day-at-a-time method on the vaping, which is a very silly habit.

    Or perhaps I’ll quit vaping by going back to onion skins. I puffed some last night. Mmm! Almost as tasty as a cigarillo.

    Covid relevance? Er…

    Here we are. Once you’ve peeled off the onion skins and put them in the microwave you should put the onions themselves on the floor. This will chase all traces of the virus from the room:


  82. You see how it works now? The Vaccine is the ONLY thing that can save us from The Virus and all these nasty, horrible, repeated lockdowns, social distancing and masks which have become the necessary ‘new normal’ in order to fight off this killer plague. The Vaccine is the magic bullet that will end all our suffering, but we have to believe in the Science and the pharmaceutical experts who have certified that it is safe and effective. Get vaccinated – ‘for the greater good’. Those who resist are not looking at science and facts, they are relying upon ‘feelings’ and social media misinformation campaigns.

    I’ll be first in the queue, taking the jab for my benefit. If having had it means I’ll go back to the cinema and other such places I’m avoiding right now, you could say it was for the greater good too. Of course there are risks, & a bad vaccine could make matters worse. But since they’re being tested already, I don’t see how such a rogue vaccine is gonna make it to mass production.


  83. “In the prepandemic period of our study, we did not observe a statistically significant reduction in confirmed seasonal influenza virus infections in the TIV recipients (Table 3), although serological evidence (Supplementary Appendix) and point estimates of vaccine efficacy based on confirmed infections were consistent with protection of TIV recipients against the seasonal influenza viruses that circulated from January through March 2009 [16]. We identified a statistically significant increased risk of noninfluenza respiratory virus infection among TIV recipients (Table 3), including significant increases in the risk of rhinovirus and coxsackie/echovirus infection, which were most frequently detected in March 2009, immediately after the peak in seasonal influenza activity in February 2009 (Figure 1).

    Nonspecific immunity against noninfluenza respiratory viruses was reported in children for 1–2 weeks after receipt of live attenuated influenza vaccine [28]. Interference in respiratory and gastrointestinal infections has been reported after receipt of live oral poliovirus vaccine [29–32].”

    “We examined virus interference in a Department of Defense dependent population.
    Vaccinated personnel did not have significant odds of respiratory illnesses.
    Vaccinated personnel were protected against influenza.
    Odds of virus interference by vaccination varied for individual respiratory viruses.Vaccine derived virus interference was significantly associated with coronavirus [not SARS-CoV-2 but coronaviruses generally] and human metapneumovirus.”

    We all make our own choices in this life, based on our own assessment of the pros and cons. If that choice is taken away by your government and strenuous efforts are made to discredit and belittle, even to criminalise those who demand the right to choose for themselves, then you have to ask why.


  84. I wasn’t aware of, or had forgotten, the narcolepsy issue. It seems a small risk, even if the risk of H1N1 turned out to be overstated in this country (did it? or did mass-vaccination save thousands?).

    No dought there are potential side effects of any and all vaccines. Nevertheless, the benefits of vaccination in the 21st century are nothing shy of monumental. It disturbs me to see parents refuse point blank to vaccinate their children, or demanding separating the MMR into three jabs (perhaps even paying for this service). Of course it is entirely rational to not get a vaccination for measles, provided enough of the people around you *do* take it up. But that’s not a risk to be taken lightly.

    For a Wu Flu vaccine, we’ve already had 40k deaths, so it’s obvious that if we had an effective jab before it arrived on these shores, the net benefit would have been massive. Whether the benefit is as large now is moot, pending an autumnal resurrection/complete fizzle.

    And I am as sure as I can be that the vaccine, if and when it arrives, will not be mandatory, nor will it be mandatory to provide proof of taking it to access services.


  85. Actually, I think I might be doing a lot more shopping in Lidl. They are refusing to enforce The First Midget’s mask diktat in Scotland, saying it is not up to retailers to police the public. Will let non mask wearers into their stores. I’m guessing that Boris will look at this and, like the coward he is, back away from making masks mandatory because he knows that it will make him extremely unpopular and furthermore he will probably end up looking like a fool as the major supermarket chains refuse to enforce the law. Could be wrong though; he’s as stupid as he is yellow.


  86. We’ve moved firmly into Communist dictatorship territory now with this fake ‘Conservative’ government. Any pretence at libertarianism has been ditched. Chairman Boris is now a fully fledged dictator. There is absolutely no justification for this whatsoever. It is, pure and simple, the imposition of control over the population for one purpose only – to secure even tighter control by gauging compliance and by normalising the populace to unthinkingly accept the imposition of ad hoc rules which have no practical purpose whatsoever. In that respect, this government is no longer staggeringly incompetent; it is frighteningly competent and the UK now is no longer a free, democratically ruled country. Other countries are doing the same, so it’s not just a national Communist dictatorship we are now being forced to live under, but a global Communist dictatorship. All dissent will be crushed. They’ll be coming for Covid sceptics and climate sceptics soon enough. I have hopes that the British people will resist this power-grab over their lives, but alas, I fear they have been conditioned by decades of compliance and brainwashing. It was just too easy. ridiculously easy, some even loving their new found servitude to the state.


  87. Geoff: ‘When we invaded Russia twice (and lost)’

    Andy West ‘…ah, I’d completely flipped for some strange reason to the bigger invasions of Russia (France and Germany). Sorry. As noted, I agreed with that point anyhow.’

    But Britain did invade Russia twice, once in the 1850s with the Crimean War, and in 1919 when we picked the losing side in their civil war. We still lost though.


  88. Bill: yes, I know this. And that’s why I corrected. It’s just that the first time around, I was reading too fast and wrongly processed two invasions as ‘the big two’. Despite this context makes the overall sentence incomprehensible and daft, my racing brain and writing just rolled on anyhow. Fortunately, I sometimes re-read the next day to check if feverishness took me, so indeed saw that Geoff meant the actual two times Britain had invaded. Fortunately, my text was tangential and Geoff’s point here still stands, and was anyhow already an agreement about general motivations of the era made earlier.


  89. Jaime, “…I have hopes that the British people will resist this power-grab over their lives…”

    I think it’s exactly the people who caused it. While the end results may be the same, I don’t think it’s any kind of top-down power-grab. As you note, various other countries are doing likewise despite a range of different government types and situations. The common motivator is fear that they aren’t seen to be doing the right thing, aren’t seen to be saving the people, fear of the (voting) mob, which motive appears still to be overriding all other considerations. And I think this stems from a very real public pressure, however appropriate or inappropriate that pressure is. All parties support; Labour asks only why isn’t it sooner, why wasn’t it sooner. I looked on FB – reams of people not only love it, they are saying they will personally enforce it if they see anyone risking lives by not complying. There may or may not be a silent majority who disagree, but the government and no-one else can hear silence. I wonder what happens in pubs and restaurants, hardly practical to wear a mask while eating or drinking. If it lasts a few months until the fears subside and then is revoked, no big deal, and may even be useful wrt local flare-ups, albeit it seems to be rather after the horse has bolted. But absolutely massive deal if this becomes permanent though.


  90. I don’t think it is fear Andy. If it was fear, people would already be routinely wearing masks in supermarkets without being told to do so. Only about 5% of shoppers wear masks here, which has increased slightly from the height of the pandemic when hardly anybody wore a mask. People aren’t even bothering to socially distance inside supermarkets. They intuitively sense that the risk is small and they can read the headlines that deaths are declining to zero. Only a few bedwetters are demanding this blanket mask rule. Most people don’t want it. The government is not following public opinion. This is top down, not bottom up. It will never end if people comply. It will be forced upon pubs and restaurants and even on the streets and they will say it is absolutely necessary until a vaccine can be developed. Then they will say, the only way out is if everyone is vaccinated. Spain is already there.

    “The wearing of face masks will remain compulsory in Spain until a Coronavirus (Covid-19) vaccine is found, with police having the power to fine citizens for not wearing them, the government announced on Tuesday.

    It forms part of the measures within a new royal decree approved by the cabinet to establish the measures that will govern the ‘new normality’ after the ‘state of alarm’ and lockdown officially ends. The measures have been drawn up by Spain’s Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Transport.

    Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa said that the measure regarding the wearing of face masks would continue after the country’s ‘state of alarm’ concludes on 21 June – and that it would ‘remain in place until we permanently defeat the virus, which is when we have an effective treatment or vaccine against it’.”

    This is not a cultural phenomenon, this is a global political phenomenon, coordinated and well planned.


  91. Personally I oppose the imposition of a law making it compulsory to wear face masks in shops, partly because I will find it extremely uncomfortable to wear one (I hated even wearing a tie when at work, and one of the great joys of retirement has been wearing open-necked shirts all day), but mostly because of the complete illogicality of it and because of the law of unintended consequences.

    1. I can see no sense in face masks not being compulsory at the height of the pandemic, but being made compulsory as the pandemic fizzles out.

    2. If face masks are essential, why wait until 24th July? I can understand the need to give people time to react to the news and to buy their masks, but a delay of 11 days?

    3. Retail shops are only just starting to struggle back to life. This will be a kick in the guts to them, with even more people abandoning physical shopping for online shopping. People might comply for essentials, but all those shops selling discretionary items (e.g. book-shops) will take a fresh hit, IMO. I’ll wear a mask, reluctantly, to do our food shop, but I won’t wear one to re-visit my local book shop, since I don’t need to go there, much though I would like continue supporting their business.

    4. If I have it correct, the new law won’t apply to restaurants and cafes. So apparently it’s safe to sit in close quarters eating a meal with (and surrounded by) people who aren’t members of my household, for an hour or more, without a face mask, but a 2 minute canter round a retail shop is so dangerous that I must wear a face mask.

    I don’t know why the Government is doing this, but it makes no sense to me.



    God help us, it’s finally happened. Later today, Matt Hancock – it would be him – is due to announce that face masks will be mandatory in all shops from July 24th, with the police empowered to issue £100 on-the-spot fines to anyone who doesn’t comply.

    To coincide with this fresh hell, I’ve posted a round-up of all the evidence concerning face masks by an anonymous contributor on the right-hand side called “Masks: How Effective Are They? An Update“. Most of the evidence suggests the case for mandatory mask wearing outside healthcare settings is weak, particularly the non-surgical, re-usable cloth masks that the Government is insisting on. Here’s a typical paragraph from one of the articles linked to in the new round-up:

    Sweeping mask recommendations – as many have proposed – will not reduce SARS-CoV-2 transmission, as evidenced by the widespread practice of wearing such masks in Hubei province, China, before and during its mass COVID-19 transmission experience earlier this year. Our review of relevant studies indicates that cloth masks will be ineffective at preventing SARS-CoV-2 transmission, whether worn as source control or as PPE.

    There was a good Newsnight report by health correspondent Deborah Cohen last Friday, which included contributors making the case for and against mandatory face coverings. Making the case for were Oxford Professor Trish Greenhalgh and Royal Society President Sir Venki Ramakrishnan and making the case against were Nottingham Professor Robert Dingwall and Oxford Professor Carl Heneghan. Needless to say, the latter were far more convincing.

    Heneghan pointed out that there was little evidence from randomised control trials showing masks were effective and it was odd for the Government to be mandating a public health measure that isn’t based on RCT evidence. He also said that if masks are used repeatedly, rather than disposed of daily, someone with a viral infection can re-infect themselves when they put the mask back on.

    Robert Dingwall was even more scathing:

    It doesn’t matter whether the evidence is effective or not. The demand is that governments do something and what we’re seeing here I think is the latching on to the idea that masks are something that a government could do which is cheap, which is symbolic, but which is probably not particularly effective.

    But the most interesting thing in the report was the following scoop by Deborah Cohen:

    The debate is deeply political. Newsnight understands that the World Health Organisation committee that reviewed the evidence for the use of face coverings in public didn’t back them. But after political lobbying, the WHO now recommends them.

    After the report was broadcast, Trish Greenhalgh took to Twitter to criticise it. She complained that Newsnight hadn’t used all of her interview (has she never done a pre-record before?) and that interviewing scientists on both sides of the debate, as opposed to just her side, “sows confusion and could cost lives”. “We need responsible journalism or programmes could/will cost lives,” she tweeted.

    This is essentially the same argument that Ofcom made when it issued its coronavirus guidance and which the Free Speech Union is seeking to challenge in the High Court. The evidence that a particular Government regulation will be do more good than harm is inconclusive, but nevertheless it’s wrong to allow people to criticise that regulation just in case it is as effective as the Government claims. If it is – even though we don’t know whether it is – then public criticism of it will mean people are less likely to comply and that, in turn, will cause harm. It’s a bad argument because it’s conditional upon taking it for granted that the Government is right and you can’t ask members of the free press to do that.

    Deborah Cohen took to Twitter to defend herself and made a good job of it. “She tried to warn me off talking about the evidence saying people would die if I did that,” she said of Professor Greenhalgh. But she pointed out that the Danish Health Authorities do not currently recommend wearing face coverings in non-healthcare settings, pending the outcome of an an ongoing RCT with 6,000 participants. The bottom line is, you’ll only put people at risk by presenting the case against mandatory face masks if they do more good than harm and the evidence for that is threadbare, at best.

    Deborah also doubled down on her scoop: “We had been told by various sources WHO committee reviewing the evidence had not backed masks but they recommended them due to political lobbying. This point was put to WHO who did not deny.”

    Recommended them due to political lobbying.

    One of the most depressing things about this Government’s diktat is that it will mean people are even less likely to go shopping than they were when non-essential shops were allowed to re-open on July 4th. It’s as if the Government is determined to destroy the high street. First, it insisted on the closure of non-essential shops; then it allowed them to re-open, but only on the proviso that they put ridiculous social distancing measures in place, such as limiting the number of people that can be inside at any one time and insisting that anyone entering use hand sanitiser; now they’ve decided to make the shopping experience even more unpleasant. It’s the final blow, surely? Who will bother to go to a shop when they can get everything delivered to their front door?

    The question no one seems to be asking is: Why do we need to worry about interrupting transmission of the virus when almost no one has it any more? The number of new cases in the UK yesterday was 530. People remain infectious for a maximum of 10 days, so that’s 5,300 infectious people in the UK at the moment. If we assume that 60% of them are symptomatic and will stay at home, that’s 2,120 people who could be out shopping, or one person in every 31,604. That’s an infinitesimally small risk.

    So what is the bloody point?

    Liked by 2 people

  93. Jaime, “If it was fear, people would already be routinely wearing masks in supermarkets without being told to do so”

    Whenever have those who fearfully cry alarm ever been rational? Especially if indeed they are a minority, yet represent the voices that are heard above all else, because they are shouting.


  94. Andy, even fear has its own internal rationale.

    The government has entered the Twilight Zone with this new ‘law’.

    If masks work, then they worked three months ago when the government was actively discouraging their use and thousands of people were dying from Covid-19. The science and evidence hasn’t changed much in that time. If masks work, then they will reduce the rate of infection in the non-vulnerable community at a time when very few pople are dying from Covid-19 and there is no epidemic. The data and most recent research suggests that herd immunity can be attained at a low threshold if non-vulnerable people are infected, thus protecting everybody. If masks work then this latest insane policy will prolong the effects of the disease by delaying the achievment of natural herd immunity. If masks don’t work, then it is totally bloody pointless and only does more harm to the mental and physical health of wearers, whilst also putting the final nails in the coffin of the high street retail sector.

    There is NOTHING positive to be gained from this policy – unless you are a control freak obsessed with using fear to impose control measures upon the population which serve no practical purpose other than the imposition of control per se.

    Liked by 1 person

  95. I find the argument that face coverings are not necessary, except in medical settings, to be rather odd. When I go to my GP I have to face-mask up, yet here I am barraged by statements that face masks are useless. If my GP believes they are required (and presumably are also effective) then I’ll comply. If the non-Covid part of my local hospital is face mask ridden then there has to be a good reason. If nurses in Covid wards wear simple face masks rather than surgical masks, they must convey some benefit, or is it being argued that it is all a huge scam?

    If it’s not one big, international scam, then if masks work (and are considered essential) in medical settings, then why don’t they work in confined, non-medical settings like shops?

    What happened to claims that Far Eastern countries faired better because their populations were already wearing face masks? Was this all speculative tosh?

    Wearing a face mask Is an altruistic act. It’s not really for your own protections but is to prevent or reduce the chance of others being infected by you. I will wear a mask,


  96. “If the non-Covid part of my local hospital is face mask ridden then there has to be a good reason.”

    I went to my local hospital a couple of weeks back as I managed to get something in my eye. Thought I’d better mask up. Myself and a couple of other patients had masks, *no* staff were wearing them, albeit a few had them around their necks. And there were way more staff wandering about than I’ve ever seen there before.


  97. Andy. Clearly the “supreme being“ (the nurse in the all-red uniform)* had not been around the parts of the hospital you visited.

    *The red-dressed supreme being is the person in charge of disease control for a hospital, even aristocratic consultants scuttle out of her way. In my Norfolk and Norwich hospital she was tall and statuesque with a squad of followers attending her every word. I got the impression she was universally hated by regular nurses, but that probably signified she was doing her job well. (She didn’t wear a mask, but then I only saw her once and that was in a “clean” area (and no virus would dare…)).


  98. Good article MIAB. ‘To cancel the face is to cancel the person’. Forcing everyone to cover their face at the tail end of an epidemic of a disease which has proven to be not dangerous to the majority of the population is not only very, very stupid, it is palpably anti-human.

    Here’s some hard logic for those who insist that wearing a mask is a form of altruism which does not protect you personally but protects those around you. For any person under 65 shopping in a supermarket, the risk of dying from Covid-19 is about the same as the risk of dying in your vehicle with which you drive to the supermarket. It’s rather higher for those over 65 or those with existing health problems. So, I ask you this, what is more sensible: for those people at risk to don disposable gloves and a genuinely protective FFP3 respirator mask whilst shopping or for everybody to wear damp, infected face nappies or assorted fabric coverings to supposedly prevent the disease spreading more generally (thus delaying reaching herd immunity, which would protect everyone naturally)?

    I know which argument I find more persuasive. The fact that this government has gone for imposing a blanket mandatory face covering diktat is breath-taking. For Hancock, the Health Minister, God help us, to stand up in Parliament and say that shops can call the police if someone turns up not wearing a face nappy is the most idiotic, juvenile, arrogant, unblinkingly authoritarian, utterly disrespectful bullshit I have heard in all my life. He is a sixth form prefect totally out of control and drunk on power which never should have been given to such an emotionally unstable, intellectually and factually challenged ego in a suit nursing psychotic tendencies. Matron should drag him aside, put him over her knee and spank him firmly until he comes to his senses and he promises NEVER to go near the reins of power again.


  99. Whatever the reasons for the imposition of masks indoors, it can’t be a quirk of Johnson’s, because Macron has just announced precisely the same measure in France, with the same absurd two week lead in time during which you can carry on infecting all you like.

    And it can’t be bottom up pressure. You don’t need to be a focus group genius like Johnson’s adviser Dominic Cummings to realise that people are going to be extremely fed up with masks very fast, whatever they say in polls or on Facebook. It looks like political suicide, but it can’t be that, unless Macron and Johnson are in a suicide pact. Could it be a conspiracy between those who benefit, like Big Commerce, Big Pharma, Big Government, and Big Brain Academia? Such a weird coalition could hardly get their act together within a period of a few weeks, so it’s more likely to be an alliance of circumstance.

    Angering the electorate, even when there’s no election in sight, as is the case in France and the UK, seems a terribly dangerous thing to do, unless you’re looking to some advantage that might accrue before any upcoming elections. One possible advantage is that provoking the anger of the population in this way allows you to identify the troublemakers who might object to similar restrictions of freedom in some other crisis situation. Looks like it’s a few maverick journalists at the Telegraph, Spectator and Mail on the right, plus George Galloway, Craig Murray and Spiked! Online on the left, plus us climate sceptics. See you all in the re-education camp.

    I’ll reply to you on the other subject somewhere else, since it’s a bit off topic here.


  100. “…Angering the electorate, even when there’s no election in sight…”

    Well admittedly I’ve been busy today and not had time for more than a cursory glance. But we know as a matter of evidence already and not speculation, that the population(s) net object? Indeed, are net angry?

    Notwithstanding some usual suspects: “Looks like it’s a few maverick journalists at the Telegraph, Spectator and Mail on the right, plus George Galloway, Craig Murray and Spiked! Online on the left, plus us climate sceptics.” Which I guess a 13-year old with Internet access could have found out, without any need for any new edicts 😉


  101. Hasn’t Toby Young got it bass ackwards “The government has been so successful with the collusion of the BBC and mainstream media at terrifying the public..”
    I was led to believe from reading these electronic tomes that it was the mainstream media that scared the public, who then conveyed their anxieties to MPs, who scared the Government into “acting” (unfortunately like decapitated chickens), and who took away our freedom to breathe properly.
    And somewhere Science entered the fray and got their sums wrong. Entanglements with racism and climate change futures ensued and got all messy.
    Then I found a website that put me straight – viruses don’t cause diseases, Coronavirae are not infectious, and vaccines are chimeric. I can sleep at night. Residual symptoms are fantasies.


  102. Russia Today again, but I thought this section was rather telling:

    “However, the UK government’s shift is remarkable – and laughable. Wearing face masks on public transport was made compulsory on June 15, and the announcement explained the government’s thinking:

    “When necessary to use public transport, people may be more likely to be in enclosed spaces for longer periods of time where we know there is a greater risk of the spread of the virus and social distancing is likely to be difficult to follow consistently. This differs from enclosed spaces like shops, for example, where people can more easily go outside if social distancing is not possible and where shop owners can place limits on the number of customers allowed inside at any one time.””

    “Making the wearing of face masks compulsory is inconsistent, illogical, illiberal & divisive”

    Liked by 1 person

  103. I’m not for concentrating on personal tragedies; we desperately need to see the wider picture with Covid-19 and the catastrophic government response to it, but if you want to indulge some compassion and humility, here it is:

    Unlike politicians, I have no need of costly polls to tell me what people are thinking. Not when I’ve got you lot! The response last week to my piece on how I couldn’t bring myself to clap the NHS after it shamefully shut up shop to other diseases to cope with Covid-19 was absolutely overwhelming.

    This, from poor Eric, was typical: “I was diagnosed with Parkinsons’s disease in December by my GP and booked in to see a specialist in April. That appointment was cancelled because of Covid-19 and as yet I have not seen anyone. I was informed that the sooner I started on the appropriate drug the better my chance of delaying the symptoms. I now have difficulty walking and am not on any medication because the first medication prescribed over the phone didn’t help and, therefore, I have to wait to see another doctor.”

    A disturbing picture quickly built up of very unwell people, many in considerable pain, managing as best they could after being rebuffed by elusive GPs or turned away by local hospitals, many of which now stand virtually empty.

    Several readers drew my attention to incredibly sad cases where deaths could have been avoided. “We lost a good friend,” says Pam, “He suffered peritonitis as a result of a strangulated colon. His daughter spoke on the phone to his GP who prescribed medication for constipation! Despite the fact that a previously-arranged appointment for a colonoscopy was postponed. A face-to-face consultation with a doctor would have had a very different result.”

    Rita points out that her husband’s cancer treatment, which was clearly keeping him alive, “was withdrawn on the basis that coming to hospital would expose him to Covid and it would likely kill him. The sheer hypocrisy of their approach left me speechless and convinced my family that the real danger was not Covid but their lack of concern for a 75-year-old man with terminal cancer.”

    Many GPs – some retired, a lot still practicing – wrote of their horror at the suggestion from the Royal College of General Practitioners that remote consultation by video or phone might continue. William, a GP for over forty years, said: “Teaching medical students, I always stress the importance of face-to-face consultations. From the moment the patient enters the room you gather information. Are they anxious or relaxed? Interactive or withdrawn, overweight or markedly thin, well presented or unkempt? None of these signs will be in evidence over the phone!”

    Many of you were both angry and incredulous that your local surgery appeared to think it was acceptable not to see sick people for the duration. “I call mine Fort Laramie,” jibed Christopher, “because it is closed and hatches battened down. The purpose is to keep patients out. It even looks like a fort because of narrow slit windows just big enough for the defenders to fire their Winchester 73s.”

    One husband and wife team, both NHS consultants, said: “We have both had to deliver devastating diagnoses via phone and tried to support families who could not be with their dying loved ones. I don’t know a single doctor who finds this lack of human contact acceptable. It is clear the managers are seizing on this to make remote consultation the new normal – it’s much cheaper although the health costs of missed diagnoses have not been quantified. I have never joined the clapping as it’s a poor substitute for proper funding, accurate information and PPE. Someone needs to start listening to doctors whose fears and frustrations are not reflected in the media.”

    Not a single reader who wrote to me doubted that “our NHS”, while staffed by some brilliant people, was in need of root and branch reform.

    Even more so now. The collateral damage from Covid looks set to run and run. The true scale of the backlog about to engulf the NHS, because hospitals postponed 1.5 million operations, is terrifyingly apparent. And to think much of it could have been avoided if only regular healthcare had continued here in the UK as it did in countries likes France and Germany.

    Meanwhile, Hancock admits that a “significant minority” of Covid patients suffer ongoing health problems and that “We’re constantly learning about the impact of it and it does appear that for some people there’s a pretty debilitating long-term impact, quite similar to a post-viral fatigue syndrome that you do get with many viruses.”

    ‘Many viruses’ – not just Covid-19.

    I wonder, does the ‘significant minority’ of Covid patients suffering lasting health effects from Covid-19 trump those patients suffering the lasting health effects of not having access to quality health care for very serious non Covid ailments?


  104. Alan, “I was led to believe from reading these electronic tomes…”

    Considering there’s quite a range of opinion here (including your own, of course), I doubt you could distil any meaningful single position from that range as it currently stands. I popped in Toby’s theory just to show that, even for those not at all approving of the government’s actions re covid, that range is wider still beyond these pages.


  105. Jaime, “‘Many viruses’ – not just Covid-19.”

    Yes, I’ve had a long-term debilitating condition for decades that came from flu, and will always have it I think. Fortunately in my case, after some years I arrived at medication which largely addresses the main issues, though that itself is not without some downsides too.


  106. Jaime. The position of Home Secretary used to be the poison chalice in the Cabinet, with a succession of, mostly Tory, ministers inhabiting the role and in the mind of the general public and mainstream media making an absolute balls up of the job. Some, successful in other posts, made a right hash in the Home Secretary seat. I strongly suspect that the hated position has now shifted to the Health Ministry and Matt Hancock is definitely in your sights. But, wait a minute, what qualifies him, or almost any other politician to make policy on health or social care? Hancock is an economist – he took the almost obligatory PPE at Oxford, worked for the Bank of England, then for Osbourn in the Treasury. He only had a few months as a cabinet minister (Culture and Sport) before being shunted into Health with the promotion of Hunt. He has no prior knowledge of the Health portfolio.

    I don’t know anyone in the present parliament (both benches) or, for that matter, few in the past, who could have dealt well with the current situation, Supposedly informed and scientific advice was tendered, but was contentious and, in all probability wrong. How to know this? You listen to advice from those in your department, but they listen to the same “science”.

    In any case, policy is decided in Cabinet. Don’t target Hancock alone. The whole bunch are responsible,

    Please don’t take this as a defence of Hancock, it isn’t. I just feel that nobody could probably have done better, and some considerably worse.


  107. Andy. These electronic tomes commonly do deliver a near constant message, Take for example the forthcoming regulation imposing the wearing of face masks in shops. Apart from myself who can’t get really het up about this issue and who would feel rather more secure in a shop where everyone wore facial coverings, the Cliscep message is uniform – it is unnecessary, counterproductive, a breach of our human rights and, all in all, a simply terrible thing that this incompetent government is unlawfully imposing upon us all. I think I got the message.


  108. “What happened to claims that Far Eastern countries faired better because their populations were already wearing face masks? Was this all speculative tosh?”

    There is an argument that this gets the chain of causation wrong. Another way of looking at this is that those societies have different behavioural norms from European and American (including Chile, Brazil, Mexico) ones. For example, I have observed that Japanese and Chinese people are obsessed with personal hygiene (even if elderly Chinese men love to hawk noisily and eject sputum all over the road). They regard Westerners as rather dirty. They tend not to indulge in hugging, kissing, back-slapping, hand shaking stuff and are rather good at cleaning themselves afterwards if they do.

    Look at the super-spreader events: funerals (which involve lots of intermingling with unknown people from all over the place), religious meetings, business networking, liquor-fuelled celebrations of weddings, birthdays and other parties (one of which involved the Crown Prince of Belgium), choir practices. Most of them happened indoors in poorly ventilated places. Most of them involved speaking or singing lustily.

    Perhaps these events are either less common in Japan and South Korea or are conducted in a more sedate manner?

    Taking a wider look at the nature of the virus itself, here is a translated article by a Swiss immunologist that takes issue with 3 shibboleths:

    1 This is an entirely new virus. He thinks it is a mutation from the common cold
    2 That there is no natural immunity to it – this he calls Immunity denial!
    3 It is wrong to claim that someone could have Covid-19 without any symptoms at all or even to pass the disease along without showing any symptoms whatsoever. “The next joke that some virologists shared was the claim that those who were sick without symptoms could still spread the virus to other people. The “healthy” sick would have so much of the virus in their throats that a normal conversation between two people would be enough for the “healthy one” to infect the other healthy one”

    View at


  109. Alan: “I think I got the message.”

    Well you seem to have missed much. Maybe your strong disagreement with the message you appear to think is uniform, blotted out all else. I pointed out that (whether or not it would work or backfire), part of the government’s stated intention was to help with the economy by making people feel safer in shops. Also that this is no big deal unless it becomes permanent. Jit said that mask-wearing in shops would actually make him feel less safe, but also that this may be rather ‘irrational’. Mark H mainly objects to it because of the ‘the complete illogicality of it’, i.e. if they do indeed work, far and away the best deployment would have been months ago, not largely after the horse has bolted (mentioned by others too), plus also says he will wear, ‘reluctantly’. On this thread at least, Richard D, Oldbrew, Ron C, Hunter and Bill B (and perhaps others) have not expressed any specific view on mask wearing. So unless you can source an opinion elsewhere on Cli-Scep (I think most mask stuff is here) or they chip in on same, then your assumption of uniformity may be inappropriate because otherwise we can’t know their views. While some may well indeed object, for instance again upon grounds of illogicality or overall counter-productivity (whether rightly or wrongly), this would very different from signing up to saying this is “a breach of our human rights and, all in all, a simply terrible thing that this incompetent government is unlawfully imposing upon us all”, which as you are putting this heavy statement upon everyone here would indeed need explicit signing up to, or not (also for some of those who have commented too). I think including yourself too, this covers a majority of posters here, who have certainly not on this thread given the explicit message you appear to have received. Albeit I don’t recall enough from other threads, the onus here would be on you to demonstrate these strong words you are putting in people’s mouths, unless indeed they come forward to sign up. [And you or I or anyone else here, or I suspect anyone anywhere, cannot yet know whether imposition from the 24th would overall be more ‘counter-productive’ than not (e.g. depends on behavioural traits and economic issues, plus the articles on infection from poor mask handling procedure make uncomfortable reading), so this is a valid topic for discussion and not a view that is self-evidently wrong]. Don’t the actual views of all these people count? Unless you can indeed point to explicit statements for each, why are you assuming you know what they think?


  110. Andy. You may criticise my impression that there is a near-uniform criticism of the regulation to mandate the use of face masks in shops, but you should not object to my view that people posting here are opposed to this imposition. They have different reasons, but have a near uniform opposition. Furthermore when some contributions veer toward the rant, there is little to no counterpoint. Obviously I would appreciate some support for my points of view, but can live without it.


  111. Alan, I don’t object in the slightest to you having and expressing a general view that there is much opposition to the policy here. Nor does my above imply any such. I very specifically objected to you claiming it’s both uniform in nature and matches the strong words you characterised it with, which perforce includes those who have not explicitly signed-up to such words, and indeed a bunch who haven’t said anything at all on the issue. I glad you’ve morphed ‘uniform’ to ‘near uniform opposition’, and attached the very relevant caveat that ‘they have different reasons’, rather than the single motive you previously ascribed, although this is still presumptuous on behalf of those who have not expressed at all. I think you’ll find I have counter-pointed, but in any case if your real issue is what you perceive as rant, then please express this specific issue and don’t inappropriately ascribe views to others, because the former may help the health of the blog and the latter will only confuse / unhelp, plus lose your actual non-obvious point in the process too.


  112. Andy. Well let’s do a test. I maintain that there is near uniformity in the written opposition to the mandatory wearing of face marks within Cliscep. Reasons may differ but would include some amalgam of masks being unnecessary and ineffective, counterproductive (in that it will damage shop purchasing), it is a breach of our human rights and, “all in all, a simply terrible thing that this incompetent government is unlawfully imposing upon us all“.
    I argue that the above sums up the message being currently broadcast in Cliscep (except for my interventions). Andy believes there are Cliscep-ers out their who have not voiced their opinions. Is this so?


  113. “Andy believes there are Cliscep-ers out their who have not voiced their opinions. Is this so?”

    i.e. Alan’s explicit words.

    I am one who has explicitly not signed up for such, and this is very clear from my comments. And for further context, I have always worn a mask at the supermarket from the beginning. I deemed the evidence suggested likely net benefits at trivial cost when contagion was high and many unknowns associated with the virus, albeit such may largely evaporate in the thin tail (and especially when bad mask handling erodes benefits).

    Alan, if the poll works to your assumption, this is no excuse whatsoever for assuming its results before you could possibly know the views of those who had not expressed them. You cannot speak for people. If you had conducted the poll *first*, then this would have been absolutely fine. If in fact you have a *different* main issue, i.e. ranting, it is better to express what your actual issue is, because then the poll is largely irrelevant anyhow.

    I recall when it first became known that you were a climate scientist of the UAE ilk here, and there was significant feeling that blame was attributable to you because all that ilk were painted with the same brush. Yet this blog, notwithstanding same hard end climate sceptics, came to understand your position, and indeed that there were those who had different views, and indeed resisted dominant views internally, to such extent as was possible. Would you return that sympathy and understanding by painting the blog with the same single colour brush, without actually asking? Especially if you hint the colour is dark.


  114. Alan, I agree that most government ministers are clueless and Hancock is no exception to that rule, but I do get the impression that he is actually enjoying the power he has been ill-afforded by virtue of his role as Health Minister. I can’t watch him in the Commons; he actually makes my skin crawl.

    Andy, sorry to hear about your health problems. Some people denied it for years, and dismissed those suffering from it, but severe viral infections can trigger an odd immune response which is variously known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or ME.

    Liked by 1 person

  115. Jaime, while chronic fatigue was an issue (much less so now), my own symptoms are at the fibro-myalgia end of the spectrum, i.e. muscle inflammation / pain. Bad enough, but unfortunately in my case often centred in the chest, and being that the heart and its casing are basically muscle, resulting in (often severe) arythmia and symptoms like a heart attack. It’s actually not too dangerous (albeit very painful), because the heart is not poorly, just stressed, but until getting mostly on top of it I saw the inside of quite a few ICUs that were insisting I was having a heart attack. Sometimes I was well enough to point out this wasn’t the case and ‘just give me some very strong painkillers really quick’, other times I wasn’t well enough to argue; figured they’d kick me out the following day when they found out. Even managed and under control it has been a major issue impacting my life for about 40 years, and while it hasn’t prevented me from lots of travel and also playing live music, it has often been very challenging indeed, especially a major flare-up in far flung locations, or scraping through a gig in pain and spending the next 3 days in bed.

    Liked by 1 person


    “… people posting here are opposed to this imposition. They have different reasons, but have a near uniform opposition.”

    Not in my case. I will by and large obey whatever rules are in place. I’ve been wearing a mask in shops for ages, though I hate it. I didn’t study the medical science, I simply heard somebody talk about droplets and micro-droplets and thought: “that’s enough science for me.” I also don’t talk through my mask. Especially I don’t have long loud conversations with strangers for twenty minutes while standing the regulation distance away, because that’s stupid (though perfectly legal.)

    On the other hand, if I was the Dutch Prime Minister Rutte and I was told I couldn’t visit my dying mother I’d tell the Dutch minister of the interior to get stuffed. Then the parliament could vote me out of office if they liked. If I was a vicar with a huge draughty church and five elderly parishioners who fancied a quick prayer on a Sunday I’d open up and tell the government to get stuffed.

    On the other hand I’ll rant about the 24th of July masked balls-up because it’s insane, and everyone can see it’s insane, and journalists and politicians pretending it’s not insane only encourages the kind of Bolshie populism that journalists and politicians are convinced is the root of the problem. It’s also worrying because the only explanations that make sense are ones that are insane. (Ask Andy West.)


  117. P.S. you’re absolutely right about the denial. Most of the medical profession didn’t acknowledge the issues at all. In a way it was only because my symptoms were sometimes peculiarly acute, that I finally got attention at all. For ages they were putting me on treadmills and things; I pointed out this was completely useless, I’ll pass fine, but in 24 to 48 hours after I’ll have chest pains and exhaustion. Took about 15 years to get a decent fix up.


  118. “It’s also worrying because the only explanations that make sense are ones that are insane. (Ask Andy West.)”

    I love your explanations. What else gives me the chance to wax so lyrical? Besides, we’re almost in agreement here, I agree the ultimate reasons are irrational 🙂


  119. Sounds pretty horrible Andy.

    On the mask issue, we may have a very interesting test of the government’s authority developing. Supermarkets are saying that they will not challenge customers without a mask and that it is the responsibility of the police to do so. Co-op are saying that they are maintaining social distancing of 2m, so the need to wear a mask at all is highly dubious, given that the goverment stated in June that the reason they are not making masks mandatory in shops is that SD is easier to ensure. The police are saying that they don’t have the resources to enforce this legislation, so it may all fall apart spectacularly and I suspect from that point on the government is going to be in for a very rough ride.


  120. Alan, regarding face masks, Andy West summed up my stance pretty accurately.

    I personally don’t like wearing face masks, but I recognise that they might make a modest difference to infection spreading (despite the WHO arguing for a long time that they didn’t, before changing its advice). I will obey the law, and when (but not before) the wearing of them in shops becomes compulsory, I will comply, as I comply with all laws, even though I disagree with the law occasionally. Given my dislike for face masks (I find them extremely uncomfortable, they restrict my breathing and – in summer at least – they make me very hot) I will visit shops as little as possible, and my discretionary spend in all but food shops will, from 24th July, cease, as I will stop going in to them.

    My objection to the compulsory wearing of face masks from 24th July (announced on 13th July) is, to reiterate, down to a number of factors:

    1. We’re closing the stable door after the horse has bolted;

    2. The new law is being applied inconsistently and illogically – shop-workers apparently won’t have to wear face masks, but shoppers will. Masks don’t have to be worn in pubs and restaurants, where people will sit in close proximity for an hour or more, but they will have to be worn in shops where people are in fleeting contact. Have you seen shots of Parliamentary debates recently? Scarcely a mask in sight.

    3. I suspect the idea is that the economy opens up, the wearing of masks is intended to give people confidence to visit shops and “spend for Britain”. As mentioned above, I suspect it will be counter-productive, and people will from 24th July avoid shops and/or spend less time in them. In that I acknowledge I may wrongly be reading across to the general population from my own behaviour and thoughts.

    4. It contradicts the Government’s own advice when it made the wearing of masks on public transport compulsory, but (at that stage) didn’t make the wearing of masks compulsory in shops.

    5. If the wearing of masks in shops is so important, why delay its introduction until July 24th? (As mentioned in an earlier comment, I can see the need for people to have a day or two to buy or make masks and to get used to the new law coming into force, but an 11 day delay is just bizarre).

    I don’t oppose the wearing of masks on the ground that it’s a breach of fundamental liberties etc – if there is a strong case for it on health grounds, then I certainly accept that it would trump the liberty argument. But if there’s a strong case on health grounds, the mandating of mask-wearing should be across the board and applied immediately and consistently. IMO, the fact that it is not being mandated immediately and consistently suggests that the Government does not think there is a strong case on health grounds, and this is being driven more by politics than by science.

    This is a sceptical website, so Alan, you may be correct that the general “vibe” here is one of hostility to the mandating of face mask wearing, but I think Andy West is correct that many have not expressed an opinion, and of those who dislike the idea, few are as vehement as Jaime in this regard.

    Liked by 3 people

  121. I’ll obey as well, but my teeth will be gritted behind my mask.

    I really don’t see the point. There’s a lot of (seemingly deliberately) missing the point going on. We have politicians talking about a mask intercepting a sneeze: but any symptomatic folk are at home, right? The mask is only there to stop asymptomatic but infected folk from *breathing* out their virus. Will the mask intercept these smaller particles?

    Nothing here makes sense. Till now, we are safe with social distancing. From next friday, seemingly no longer. Was this a lie then to keep us going into shops? Don’t pretend that the science has changed. The advice has, but that’s a different matter.

    Lord only knows what a mask will be like post sneeze. My hayfever has not been too bad this year, but…

    Like Mark, I won’t be doing much non-essential shopping. Honestly I expected a bigger backlash than I have seen. It seems I am in very much the minority on a lot of issues.

    Liked by 2 people

  122. Mark, I am indeed alone in my vehement opposition to the mandatory wearing of face coverings in shops on this site, just as I was alone in my advocating the use of a protective facemask back in March, when everybody else was quoting the government ‘experts’ advice that they were not necessary. It was obvious to me then (even as it is now) that a respiratory disease spreads via exhalations from the nose and mouth and that, for a non-defined duration, be it short or long, those exhalations will become airborne and able to be breathed in directly by other people close by. So when it was thought that the disease was extremely deadly, I made the decision (against government advice) to wear a mask in the supermarket. That was then. This is now. The science and the data have changed radically (though the basic theory of airborne transmission still stands) and my opinion has changed with it. It is patently obvious that the decision to make face coverings mandatory is not based upon health and safety, or sound data and scientific evidence, but is purely political and the effect is quite frankly tyrannical, in my opinion, hence my vehement opposition.

    Liked by 3 people

  123. My 2p. My objection to the mask is that it is part of the growing “security theatre” that states are imposing on us. We know that the onerous checking of perfume bottles, toothpaste tubes, belts, buckles and shoes at airports is ridiculous but we have gone along with it.

    Wearing a mask might have value but ONLY if the wearer obeys the protocols. I have seen wearers touching their masks because they are uncomfortable and badly fitting. I have seen people leave their nostrils uncovered. They wear them for hours on end, so a cloth mask will be saturated with incoming and outgoing droplets, any of which could be contaminated, so that each outward breath might spread viral load. Thus negating the stated purpose of the mask. It is purely safety theatre to convince us that safety exists in wearing a mask. Who does it convince? Not me, I find mask-wearers scary, depriving themselves of their individuality for a theatrical display of virtue.

    I don’t want to be one of them.

    In addition, it might be dangerous for me because of my breathing difficulties. I will apply for any exemption offered. As I said further up, it also discriminates against deaf and partially deaf people. I could hardly hear what my dentist said to me last Friday through her mask and perspex visor.

    Liked by 3 people

  124. The shape of things to come? An England cricketer made an unauthorised visit to his home and is being punished

    Archer, who must now spend the next five days in isolation at the team hotel at Old Trafford and undergo two additional Covid-19 tests, said in a statement: “I am extremely sorry for what I have done. I have put, not only myself, but the whole team and management in danger. I fully accept the consequences of my actions, and I want to sincerely apologise to everyone in the bio-secure bubble.

    To me, the resonances with Stalin’s showtrials ring loud and clear. Is this what you want?

    Liked by 2 people

  125. Andy. I have thought long and hard about our discussions regarding Cliscep and the wearing of face masks. I wish you to consider another, but imaginary case. Suppose we had been discussing reports that the MSM had been reporting and concluding that the extraordinary high summer temperatures in Siberia are definitive evidence for climate change and all sorts of organisations were riding on this particular bandwagon and calling for immediate action to reduce CO2 emissions. As might be expected, if our government was buckling there might be a succession of posts here opposing this and providing evidence and argument against such actions. Since it is some years since Cliscep has hosted a troll, it is most unlikely that there would be any post arguing that the Siberian temperatures support action upon climate change.
    So I contend that someone new to Cliscep could conclude that its view is uniform and opposed to the MSM. But no you would argue, and must now argue, you cannot conclude that because you haven’t considered the opinions of those that have not commented. Well my view is that if you’ve not contributed to the discussion, you’ve no say in the matter (No spoon in the pot). It’s a bit like voting, only those who vote can legitimately complain about politics. Only those contributing to a discussion can be considered in any opinion made about what has been expressed by Cliscep.

    With respect to the face mask issue, we had one prominent contributor who was both prolific and vehement. Nobody, except myself, suggested alternatives and subsequently support for the anti face mask position arrived. Reviewing the whole thread I found a near uniform opposition to the imposed wearing of face masks in shops. Every argument I made in support was subsequently opposed or trashed. All this I contend provides support for the view that Cliscep has a uniform position upon the face mask issue, just as it would have had regarding Siberian temperatures.

    I’ll now take my sabbatical.

    Liked by 1 person

  126. @Alan, it’s not unusual for people opposed to a measure being more vocal than those in favour of it. People camp out to stop development – they don’t camp out to promote it. Nobody demonstrated for the EU until it looked like we were going to leave the EU. When tax goes up… the people who it affects get grumpy, while others just look away. [This is something that gives me hope re: climate – that people will start to oppose measures “to fight climate change (TM)” whatever that is supposed to mean.]

    This particular measure makes no sense to me. It would have done back in mid-April, or preferably sooner.

    @Andy that is an entirely ludicrous way of collecting stats. Then again, we are all going to die. Just not all at once, hopefully. It makes the daily toll somewhat pointless. (But it does depend on what ratio of the deaths really are WuFlu. Perhaps current infections are still the majority cause at the moment.

    Liked by 1 person

  127. Law is unenforceable, when taking dogs for walk this morning I was passed by a near-empty double decker bus. Not a single passenger was masked. If the law mandating mask use on public transport cannot be upheld, what is the chance that the shop ordinance can be?

    Governments should not be in the business of passing uninforceable laws. Recommending perhaps.

    Archer deserved his fate and the least he could have done was issue an apology,

    Liked by 1 person

  128. Alan, “So I contend that someone new to Cliscep could conclude that its view is uniform and opposed to the MSM.”

    Readers being variable, any single (new) one ‘could’ conclude anything. But this is anyhow a completely inappropriate comparison, resting on yet another condition you’ve introduced after the fact. You are very obviously *not* new to Cliscep. Yet you said it was *you* who had got the blog’s message, and you did know that various regular commenters had not actually pronounced to date. Plus, even for those who had, as is noted above, you placed uniform stronger words in their mouths, including mine. You also introduced after the fact folks may have ‘different reasons’, yet your original list was inclusive not as options, indeed you stressed uniformality. As you can see even from the few replies to your request so far, uniformality to your spec does not exist, which did not need a poll anyhow, just a more careful reading of the original comments and less assumption about filling in blanks. This is not an unforgivable sin; in fact I’m sure you will face absolutely no sanction whatsoever, and certainly not from me. But admitting that you over-spoke somewhat on behalf of various folks here, wouldn’t kill you.


  129. How high does the level of theatre have to go before people as a whole have had too much? Grovelling apologies for breaking needlessly draconian rules seems OK to just about every commentator on the Archer affair that I have read. Compulsory mask- wearing seems to divide the population – and some people seem prepared to wear them just to soothe the people too scared to leave the house even though they know the measure is probably futile. What about wearing sacking and flogging yourself with barbed wire to propitiate the savage Covid Gods? Maybe Covid has taken the place of the NHS as the national religion?

    Liked by 2 people

  130. From my high sabbatical fortress, I overspoke. I am not totally repentant, however, because my actions allowed us all to express themselves more clearly.
    The more I think about this matter, the more I realise just how badly the government has misjudged its approach. If they had wanted to increase the use of face masks they should have used the carrot, not the stick. Masks could have been promoted as fashion accessories. Produce masks with football club affiliations that people would be proud to wear. Produce collectibles. Elsewhere I suggested that street gangs might wear distinctive coverings. And so on.
    Anyway, back to gardening.

    Liked by 3 people

  131. Vaccines in general and flu vaccines in particular are a medical service I am completely comfortable with.
    Widespread vaccinations have save literally billions from serious illness and death.
    The rare negative reactions are insignificant compared to the benefits.
    Before I began flu shots, I caught the flu yearly, was miserably sick for over a week per episode, as well as missing work.
    This was in the late 1980s.
    Since choosing to receive flu vaccinations annually, I have had flu less than five times.
    I see the fear of vaccines as equivalent to that of GMO fear or climate change fear.
    People are free to avoid vaccines, just like GMO fear or climate fear. At least the anti-vaccine movement is not imposing policy on the rest of us.


  132. This article reproduces the twitter thread of one Gummi Bear
    which seems to demonstrate that countries which used hydroxychloroquine often and early had a case fatality rate four to ten times lower than countries like the UK and France which didn’t.
    That’s a lot of deaths to lay at the feet of those who believe the Lancet, the WHO and the NEJM over their own lying eyes.

    Liked by 2 people

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