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Two stories of interest today feature coronavirus.

The Lancet’s U-turn on lab leak

With all the news from independent media outlets revealing more information about the possible origins of the coronavirus lab leak, The Lancet agreed to publish what it calls an ‘alternative view’.

On September 19, the Mail on Sunday reported (emphases mine):

The Lancet medical journal has bowed to pressure over its heavily-criticised coverage of the disputed origins of the Covid pandemic by publishing an ‘alternative view’ from 16 scientists – calling for an ‘objective, open and transparent debate’ about whether the virus leaked from a Chinese laboratory …

The Lancet has agreed to publish an alternative commentary which discusses the possibility that laboratory research might have played a role in the emergence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

It also directly confronts the efforts of science journals to stifle debate by labelling such theories as ‘misinformation’.

In the article, the authors argue that ‘there is no direct support for the natural origin of SARS-CoV-2, and a laboratory-related accident is plausible’

They add that the February 2020 statement ‘imparted a silencing effect on the wider scientific debate’.

And they say scientists, ‘need to evaluate all hypotheses on a rational basis, and to weigh their likelihood based on facts and evidence, devoid of speculation concerning possible political impacts’.

Science itself, they go on, should ’embrace alternative hypotheses, contradictory arguments, verification, refutability, and controversy’ and rather than congratulating China on its supposed ‘transparency’, they call on the secretive superpower to open up …

The new commentary, published in The Lancet on Friday, said: ‘The world will remain mired in dispute without the full engagement of China, including open access to primary data, documents, and relevant stored material to enable a thorough, transparent and objective search for all relevant evidence.’

One of the signatories, Professor Nikolai Petrovsky of Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia, told The Mail on Sunday: ‘It might seem small, but after 18 months of complete denial, the very act of [The] Lancet agreeing to publish this letter acknowledging the origins of Covid-19 remains an open verdict, is a very big deal.

‘For a leading medical journal like Lancet to agree to finally open its doors to a letter from scientists highlighting the ongoing uncertain origins of Covid-19, indicates how far we have come in 18 months in requesting an open scientific debate on the topic, but also indicates just how far we still have to go‘.

Good news, at last.

Matt Hancock on anti-vaxxers

Matt Hancock hasn’t been Health Secretary since June, but that hasn’t stopped him banging on about the virus.

On September 19, he wrote an opinion piece for the Mail on Sunday: ‘MATT HANCOCK: In all my time, I have never come across a group so dangerous as anti-vaxxers’.

With a title like that, who needs the editorial?

He writes the way he talks:

While of course we need to be vigilant, we can start restoring what makes life worth living. Families are once again able to reunite with their loved ones. Weddings, christenings and family celebrations are back on. Businesses can open up again with more confidence. In fact, by some measures, Britain has the fastest economic recovery of all the major Western nations.

Then he goes off on a tangent:

However, almost unbelievably, there is still a persistent yet thankfully small and shrinking group of people determined to try to stop this progress. In all my time in public life, I have never come across a group so blinkered and dangerous as the anti-vaxxers

Getting the jab isn’t just about protecting yourself, but about protecting others. It’s not just about you, it is a social and moral obligation.

Good grief. I am so glad that Sajid Javid is Health Secretary.

This is probably the nicest thing he says about people hesitant to get the vaccine:

I understand that some people are hesitant. It’s ok to be unsure and ask questions.

He then trots out all the pro-vaccine statistics, including this old chestnut, which is highly dubious:

The vaccines protect you, with about 112,000 deaths prevented because of the vaccines.

Then he returns to excoriating people who don’t want to get the vaccine:

The people I reserve my vitriol for are those who promote anti-vax lies. I find it hard to believe, but it’s a shocking fact that there is a small number of aggressive, noisy, threatening people who think it is right and fair to try to stop others from getting vaccinated.

The lengths to which these people will go are extraordinary. They pump out scaremongering material and videos, with discredited arguments. They try to play on people’s fear of the unknown. They create conspiracies and spread misinformation. They’ve even sent me death threats just because I played a prominent part in the vaccines rollout.

First of all, if anyone pushed fear and scaremongering, it was Matt Hancock in his coronavirus briefings.

Secondly, if any people went to extraordinary lengths over this ‘pandemic’, it was Matt Hancock and the British government with lockdowns, ‘because they work’, so we needed not one but four. I’ve lost count.

Thirdly, millions must be more than furious with the man who laid down the law about physical restrictions — no visits to the elderly, severely restricted funerals, damp squib weddings, no church — for months on end then shows his blatant hypocrisy by canoodling with his assistant. Thank goodness for security cameras and for The Sun publishing the photo on the front page a month later.

Finally, he never gave MPs the granular data that he was looking at. MPs asked him for the data on which he based his decisions, but he never produced the information. Yet, he expected them to vote based solely on what he told them. I do wish there had been more of a revolt, but Labour were quite happy to approve any and all restrictions. What a parlous state of affairs.

In other Hancock news, in late August, he and his girlfriend took a summer holiday together at a modest resort in the Swiss Alps. It’s a pity she hasn’t gone back to her husband, who seems like a nice guy.

On September 7, Hancock returned to the backbenches for the first time since 2012:

He’s no doubt smarting from that and last week’s reshuffle.

To think he was so confident that he would get another Cabinet post.

I do not think he will win re-election should he run again. His constituents are still irked with him for leaving his wife, whom they adored.

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