You are currently browsing the daily archive for December 3, 2021.

People in England are ready to comply with Government measures on the new Omicron variant.

The measures went into effect at 4 a.m. on Tuesday, November 30 and include compulsory face coverings in shops and on public transport:

Most Britons would like to see more mask mandates in secondary schools:

On that basis, one wonders if theatre and cinema audiences will stay at home over Christmas:

Most of us are following Omicron news:

Mixed public opinion

Despite the uniformity of YouGov’s survey results, opinion is more mixed, as GB News discovered when discussing the new measures on Carnaby Street in the heart of London. Everyone had a different opinion:

Mixed messages from Government ministers and advisers

Government ministers are trying to be measured in their assessment of the new variant.

On Wednesday, December 1, the Daily Mail had a round-up of the mixed messaging.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Sajid Javid held a press conference on booster shots the afternoon before.

Boris wants people in England to carry on with Christmas plans (emphases mine):

Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged people not to cancel Christmas parties or school nativity plays. He also promised to ‘throw everything’ at the booster vaccination campaign to tackle the virus’s spread.

Sajid Javid is cautious:

There are ‘no guarantees’ that there won’t be a lockdown this Christmas, the Health Secretary warned today.

In an ominous shift in tone from recent days, Sajid Javid insisted another festive shutdown was ‘not the plan’, but said: ‘We can’t rule out any particular measure at this point in time because we always have to look at the data and do what we need to protect people.’

He even urged people to take Covid tests before going to Christmas parties and wear facemasks while partying amid mounting fears about the so-called ‘Omicron’ variant … 

Asked if he would wear a mask if he was at a Christmas party, Mr Javid told Sky News’s Kay Burley: ‘It depends if I am walking around or sitting down. It depends if I’m eating. People just need to make a decision based on the guidance.’

Elsewhere, Dr Jenny Harries, who heads the ominous sounding UK Health Security Agency, is not keen on group celebrations:

Dr Jenny Harries recommended people reduce the extent to which they socialise this winter – in a hint that restrictions could go further.

Last year, Harries discouraged going to pubs in one of the televised coronavirus briefings, so this comes as no surprise.

Another NHS bigwig also issued a warning to health staff:

Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents NHS trusts, said some NHS organisations had asked staff ‘not to mix in big groups’ in the run-up to Christmas owing to fears off staff absences.

Understandably, the hospitality industry is concerned about the reaction to Omicron:

Hospitality leaders now fear another hammering to their industry this December. Kate Nicholls, the chief executive of UKHospitality, told Radio 4’s Today programme that Saturday’s press conference had had a ‘chilling effect on consumer confidence’. She warned against ‘the threat of a stop-start to the economy again’ in the run up to Christmas

‘I think it’s driven largely by consumer confiden[ce]. I think there’s also a sense of trepidation that their plans might be disrupted again, and so that irrespective of whether there are government controls imposed on the economy, that is having a cooling effect undoubtedly on hospitality.

We already saw that bookings were subdued this year compared to pre-pandemic levels. And this will clearly have a further adverse impact on our businesses.’

Trouble started for the travel industry almost immediately after last Saturday’s press conference:

New curbs on global travel including the addition of 10 countries to the UK’s so-called ‘red list’, a return of testing rules, and quarantine hotels have also spooked travellers – and sparked a wave of cancellations of bookings at airport hotels

The Arora Group said travellers who stay at hotels at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports before catching early morning flights are axing their December bookings. They are even suspending corporate events at the four-star Fairmont in Windsor in January due to mounting uncertainty about the spread of the Covid variant, group chairman Surinder Arora said.

He told the Today programme: ‘It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster ride. Obviously we had the quarantine hotels at the beginning of this year, and then over the past few weeks as we’ve been trying to return to some kind of normality, most of the hotels have gone back to operating normal commercial hotels.

‘And then of course last week we were hit with this new virus, so sadly that’s all changed again and the Government’s obviously introduced 10 new countries on the red list which means they need a few hotels to go on the quarantine programme.

‘Over the last few weeks, when the quarantine finished we were thankful for getting back to some kind of normality. Since this latest news, instead of getting new bookings the guys are getting a lot of cancellations

‘And not just the leisure business, we’re getting quite a few bookings cancelled for meetings and events. I know, for instance, some of the larger bookings – we just recently opened our new flagship at the Fairmont in Windsor, and they actually had big large corporates who had bookings in January who are saying ”actually, we may want to push it back to further, later in the year to get some more clarity on where we’re heading”.’

It’s all so sad. If only the Government were less cowed by health advisers.

Behavioural scientist Susan Michie and the BBC

Speaking of health advisers, SAGE and Independent SAGE member Susan Michie, an avowed Communist, has been making the rounds on the BBC once again.

In July, one week before our Freedom Day on the 19th — already delayed from June — she disparaged scientists who wanted to lift lockdown:

To behavioural scientists, we are things to be manipulated:

On Monday, November 29, The Times had a scathing, yet accurate, article: ‘The BBC has a blind spot over the bias of its Covid expert Susan Michie’.

Excerpts follow:

Professor Susan Michie, of University College London, a super-rich longstanding member of the Communist Party of Britain, was lined up as a main expert to pass judgment on the prime minister’s announcement of measures to tackle the new Omicron variant.

Michie, dubbed “Stalin’s nanny” when she was a student at Oxford, is often simply introduced as someone who sits on the Sage committee, the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies.

This doesn’t tell the whole story: Michie is part of the Covid-19 Scientific Pandemic Influenza Behaviour team (SPI-B), a sub-group of Sage made up of almost 50 people from many disciplines and backgrounds. In other words, Michie is one voice — and not necessarily the most important — in the room.

She is not a medical doctor or a virologist but a health psychologist. What overarching qualifications she has to pass judgment on air — and so often — on a range of pandemic policies is open to question

She has tweeted that “China has a socialist, collective system … not an individualistic, consumer-oriented, profit-driven society badly damaged by 20 years of failed neoliberal economic policies”.

Michie’s revolutionary viewsshe is said to be dedicated to establishing a socialist order in the UKare surely relevant when evaluating her critique of pandemic policies.

However, by Wednesday, Susan Michie had appeared three times on the BBC, which every household in Britain has to pay for via the licence ‘fee’ (tax?):

Guido Fawkes had a video and an article:

Guido cites The Times‘s second article on the BBC’s invitations to Michie (purple emphases mine):

It’s not just Guido criticising the corporation’s attitude here. In a Times article yesterday, senior Cambridge University clinical research associate Raghib Ali said:

“I think it would have been helpful to say to the viewers there may have been a conflict of interest. I also think scientists’ track record should be taken into account. For example Professor Michie’s organisation Independent Sage has repeatedly made inaccurate forecasts overestimating infections since July.”

Professor Simon Clarke, associate professor in cellular microbiology at Reading University, also said:

“I see nothing wrong with Professor Michie being given air time, but it should be in a more balanced way. But that’s not her responsibility to ensure, it’s the BBC’s.”

Only ITV’s Good Morning Britain has told the truth about Michie:

So far the only prime time presenter to call out Michie’s hardline beliefs for the transparency of viewers is Richard Madeley

Coronavirus cousins could help combat Covid variants

In better news, a London consortium of scientists posits that the common cold, also a type of coronavirus in some cases, could help fight COVID-19 variants.

On November 30, The Times reported:

Professor James Moon, a consultant cardiologist who last week was named on a list of the world’s most influential researchers, is chief investigator of the Covidsortium, a group of researchers from University College London (UCL) and St Bartholomew’s Hospital that was assembled before the start of the first UK pandemic wave in March 2020. Showing remarkable foresight and, in research terms, unprecedented speed, Moon and his colleagues recruited 400 hospital staff working with infected patients in a bid to find out how and why some of the health workers might be more susceptible to infection than others. Funding was sourced — initially through a JustGiving campaign, then boosted with a significant contribution from the investment bank Goldman Sachs — in a matter of days.

Within a week they had collected blood, saliva and nasal samples and continuing data from the participants, and produced findings that informed policy from very early in the pandemic. “It is information that has proven impossibly valuable,” Moon says. “It provides the only cohort of samples taken before anyone had been infected or had a vaccination or booster.”

To date the team has published more than 20 papers, with more in the pipeline, and its attention is turning to Omicron and whether revisions to vaccines will be necessary to defy it …

clues to how new vaccines might be developed could evolve from the most recent published findings of the Covidsortium, which identified “parts of the virus that might make for a very good vaccine that may be effective against different variants”.

Reporting in the journal Nature, the team discovered that blood samples taken from about one in ten of their participants revealed markers that showed they had been exposed to Covid, yet didn’t fall ill. Unlike people who are asymptomatic — those infected with Covid but who don’t develop symptoms — this small group appeared to evade it altogether, remaining uninfected and without symptoms or a positive test.

What their blood samples did show, however, was that a subset of T-cells known to recognise and react to coronavirus appeared to have been present and poised for action even before the pandemic took hold. And the reason these people seemed to be super-protected could be down to the common cold

However, this is more complex than catching a cold and thinking that it offers protection against coronavirus:

There are more than 200 cold viruses — none is exactly the same and only about 10 per cent are caused by coronaviruses. The chances of you catching the right cold at the right time to prime your defences is minimal. And even if you did catch the right sort of cold early on, any added resistance it may have provided has probably waned.

Omicron might have been a blessing in disguise, because Covidsortium was planning on disbanding in April 2022. They now plan to continue their research:

Moon says that the team had planned to wind down their research programme next April because immunity would be waning — until last week when Omicron scuppered that. “We are clearly going to have to keep going as our research still has so much relevance,” he says. “We have samples from so many people stored in our freezers and they contain so much unique information about their antibodies and T-cells, and the questions that only we can answer are not running out.”

I wish them every success.

Let there be light

In further happier news, Parliament’s Christmas tree is casting light in the darkness.

The Lord Speaker — John McFall, Lord McFall of Alcluith — is delighted to make up for lost time:

We must make the best of this time, knowing our restrictions could be far worse. We only have to look at the EU to see that: full lockdowns in some countries, with the possibility of mandatory vaccinations in all EU nations.

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