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Dr Colin Axon, Brunel University’s senior lecturer in engineering, has been advising SAGE on ventilation in supermarkets in an effort to minimise the risk of cross-contamination.

On July 17, he said that masks do not help to reduce cross-infection.

The Telegraph reported that he compared masks to ‘comfort blankets’, saying that wearing one is ‘bad behaviour’ (emphases mine):

The public were demanding something must be done, they got masks, it is just a comfort blanket,” Dr Axon noted. “But now it is entrenched, and we are entrenching bad behaviour.

Dr Axon added that the effect of mask wearing is too small to be accurately measured:

All around the world you can look at mask mandates and superimpose on infection rates, you cannot see that mask mandates made any effect whatsoever.

The best thing you can say about any mask is that any positive effect they do have is too small to be measured.

Good.

He said that medics have a ‘cartoonish’ view of the world and do not understand some of the laws of physics:

Medics have this cartoonised view of how particles move through the airit’s not their fault, it’s not their domain – they’ve got a cartoonish view of how the world is.

Once a particle is not on a biological surface it is no longer a biomedical issue, it is simply about physics. The public has only a partial view of the story if information only comes from one type of source. Medics have some of the answers but not a whole view.

Also:

Dr Axon said the public need to be offered a wider view of the science behind face masks, rather than the “partial view” of information being pushed by medics over their effic[acy].

He compared escaping droplets from masks to marbles being thrown at scaffolding:

“The small sizes are not easily understood but an imperfect analogy would be to imagine marbles fired at builders’ scaffolding, some might hit a pole and rebound, but obviously most will fly through,” he told The Telegraph.

Excellent.

I hope that more scientists and engineers start to speak up about masks.

Time is short today, so here are a few brief takes on coronavirus.

The young

I was appalled to see this video of an infant undergoing a PCR test. What are parents and medical staff thinking?

Why would a tiny baby need to undergo such a test? Yes, I agree that the procedure could cause an infection or, worse, damage. The barrier between the brain and back of the nose must be extremely delicate in such a young child.

The old

Allegedly, last October, Prime Minister Boris Johnson sent the following message expressing scepticism about a winter lockdown in England. I agree with all of what he says. Barrister Francis Hoar makes a valid point about deaths of/with coronavirus. At the time Boris made this statement, our PCR cycle threshold was >35, thereby picking up anything and everything:

It is true that, in England, at least, the average age for the elderly dying from the virus is greater than the average life expectancy.

I do wish Boris had had the nerve to ‘recalibrate’ and avoid a winter-to-spring lockdown. He resisted, but, as usual, SAGE got to him, it would seem.

This topic came up in the comments to an article on Conservative Home about Boris.

One reader wrote (emphases mine):

If Boris Johnson at the start of this pandemic did say that those dying from Covid were “essentially all over 80” then he shouldn’t have to apologise. He was right! What he should apologise for is locking us all in our homes for 15 months in order to protect those who have had their “three score years and ten” and then some, and (unpalatable truth though it seems to be for some) are going to die of something eventually all the same.

A reply to the comment pointed out the truth about winter respiratory diseases:

I am 82 years old. Pneumonia was always called “the old man’s friend.”

Vaccine passports

Despite the Government denying it for the past seven months, it looks as if coronavirus passports are coming to England.

There is speculation that they will be required at the annual Conservative Party conference this coming autumn in Manchester at the Midland Hotel:

Guido Fawkes says:

The Mail reports the Tories’ September conference in Manchester is set to require Covid passports, in a blow to any libertarian MPs hoping to attend. While most of conference is quite far away from nightclubbing scenes, no doubt photos of a packed Midland’s bar would attract online ire …

Yesterday the Telegraph reported one prominent Tory rebel MP said he suspects if Boris does force them “significant numbers of Conservative MPs and activists will refuse to attend.”

I hope libertarian-minded Conservatives do boycott this. This policy would set a dangerous precedent for civil liberties. It’s a narrow step from a vax passport to a digital ID.

The Mail‘s article reports that the insider said:

‘Some MPs might not like it, but all the polling suggests the public are quite strongly in favour of Covid passports,’ they said. 

‘That looks to be truer for the older generations who are more at risk, and might be wanting to come along.’ 

On their heads be it.

Appalling.

Freedom Day — Monday, July 19 — in England is turning out to be a damp squib with the exception of nightclubs — for now.

Everyone’s preoccupation now is vaccine passports, which France is already rolling out with a grace period of six weeks.

Here in England, vaccine passports are likely to be rolled out in September not only for nightclubs and music venues but anywhere else that can be deemed as a ‘crowded space’.

Julia Hartley-Brewer interviewed the owner of a group of entertainment venues, who said that this is a ‘very dangerous step’ for the Government to take:

She also interviewed a spokesman for the Night Time Industries Association who says that random security guards will be checking people’s health status, something that should be private information:

It is the thin end of a very nasty wedge, indeed.

Oxford’s Prof Carl Heneghan rightly wonders if he will need a vaccine passport if he takes the Tube in London:

Here’s Julia Hartley-Brewer’s opening editorial on the danger such a policy presents:

She interviewed the Conservative MP, Sir Iain Duncan Smith. He is not one of my favourite politicians by a long shot, but he gave a considered 10-minute interview and said that we need a balance of risk, otherwise we could end up like China, where you cannot leave the house without the government knowing about it:

Lord Sumption wrote an editorial for The Telegraph on Monday. He says that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has no coronavirus plan:

We are squandering our vaccination success, which is the best in Europe. Lord Sumption concludes:

Vaccination is an impressive achievement. It represents the best that humanity can do about Covid. If it is not enough, then there are only two options. One is to impose total and permanent restrictions on human interaction, something which even governments realise is impossible. The other is to recognise defeat and allow their populations to live with Covid-19 – just as humanity had learned to live with worse pathogens for centuries before governments embarked on their current unprecedented and ill-advised experiment.

Bob Moran, a cartoonist for The Telegraph, has been concerned about coronavirus restrictions for a long time.

On Monday, July 12, he tweeted:

He had quite the Twitter thread on Tuesday. Politicians, he says, do not like solving difficult problems:

Yes, but Labour MPs, except for a handful, have actually voted with the Government on continuing coronavirus restrictions.

Moran has no love for Labour leader Sir Keir ‘Keith’ Starmer, either:

Bob Moran is genuinely concerned about what is happening:

Also:

If only we could remove the boot on our collective necks.

The next discussion point in England will be vaccinations for children. Even other conservatives, such as James Delingpole, are sounding the alarm:

I have no words for how awful this is.

Although I’m writing about England, Scotland and Wales are no better with their restrictions. I despair.

Freedom Day did go ahead on Monday, July 19, in England.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, along with Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid, was told at the weekend to self-isolate. Boris went to Chequers and broadcast from there.

At 5 p.m., Boris gave a remote coronavirus briefing while Prof Jonathan Van-Tam and Sir Patrick Vallance were in the Downing Street press conference room.

Nightclubs

It looks as if Covid passports are coming in September for nightclubs and music venues.

As Dan Wootton said on GB News, Freedom Day will be remembered as the day when the Government took more of our freedoms away:

Note that tweet about the Formula One Grand Prix at Silverstone: no vaccine cards accepted, only the NHS app. No smart phone, no entry. That, to me, is also wrong. The Government should not force people to have smart phones.

GB News took a poll on vaccine passports. They had omitted their earlier question on dictatorship:

Reporter Ellie Costello returned to her favourite nightclub, Faces in Essex. She had a ball. She pulled an all-nighter as she gave this update to the GB News breakfast show. She interviewed the owner of Faces who said he was concerned about his obligation to check vaccine passports in future and the possibility they could be faked:

I hope there are enough Conservative MPs to put pressure on Boris not to go down this route:

Travel

Journalist Isabel Oakeshott spoke to Wootton about the draconian self-isolation one has to go when returning from a nearby country such as France, which is on the Amber list. During that 10-day period, one is not allowed to leave one’s house — at all. Police or a third party representative of the Government can go to a person’s home to make sure he is there:

Supermarkets

Yesterday, on Freedom Day, I did a recce of my high street. Mask wearing was 50/50.

I did not wear a face covering.

I won’t be going to the supermarket until later in the week, so cannot speak to that for now.

However, Guido Fawkes’s readers compared notes on what their Freedom Day experience was like.

One wrote:

… let me report the depressing experience of shopping in Morrisons this morning. Less than 1% unmasked amongst the customers (2 apart from me). Plenty of staff unmasked, though, behind the checkouts. And I could see they were happy, as their smiling faces were visible.

Another Morrisons shopper said (emphasis mine):

I was also in a Morrisons this morning, ignoring the pleas over the tannoy to ‘Be kind and show [you] care’. I decided to be kind to myself and abandon the mask. At first I couldn’t see anyone else unmasked, but finally in the milk aisle there was a guy coming the other way, also unmasked. We smiled at each other and nodded like we had just completed a Freemasonry ritual, and went on our way. I wasn’t challenged and no-one seemed to care, not that I care what they think anyway.

A Tesco shopper wrote in:

I’ve just done my start-of-the-week shop at Tesco: normal crowd levels. Most people are still doing their cleaning routines at the entrance. About 75%, including all at the check-outs, remain masked-up. The other 25% were mainly the twenty-somethings with no fear of Covid, either short or long …

And, finally, there was a report about Sainsbury’s:

Sainsbury’s Chesterfield 9am -ish today.

All screens gone staff scraping up the floor markings and unmasked. 😍

Was worried when I read they “REQUIRED” customers to mask up and had decided that if it was the case to boycott.

They keep my business.

Moving goalposts

Presenter Neil Oliver (the bearded gentleman in the video below) appeared on Wootton’s show to say that the Government is controlling the people, when, in fact, this is our country, not theirs.

Wootton pointed out that the Government is continually moving the goalposts in this coronavirus fiasco. Last year, they told us that when we got the vaccines, we would be able to, in Matt Hancock’s words, ‘Cry Freedom!’ Now that we have the vaccines and a majority of the adult population has had the ‘jabs’, we’re still not out of the woods:

In fact, we have less freedom now than we did a year ago.

The cost of coronavirus in England has been immense.

There is no end in sight for some restrictions and, as I wrote earlier in the week, there will be no Freedom Day on July 19, except for theatres and nightclubs.

London

On July 15, The Telegraph‘s Tanya Gold wrote about London’s ongoing ghost town appearance (emphases mine):

It is too early to say that London is dying, but something is wrong with the city and Covid has accelerated it. Certainly, there is a sense that things are slipping out of control

I was in central London last week, and it felt ever more ominous. Perhaps it was the weather – again, the rain was monstrous. Or perhaps it was the silence: the department stores in Oxford Street were glassy and empty

What will happen if offices shutter forever, and most people work from home? This will work for the affluent with spare rooms for offices, and gardens; or they might just leave for Amersham and its Britain in Bloom awards stacked on posts. For those renting in inner cities, it won’t; employers will pass a business expense onto an employee, one whose home is already small.

Will central London’s beautiful buildings become flats? John Lewis [a nationwide department store chain] is moving into housing. Will anyone want to live in them if the city declines?

Restaurants 

On the topic of London, Mark Hix, one of Britain’s best chefs, has had to close his two restaurants in the capital.

He has moved back to Dorset and opened a restaurant there.

Hix Soho in Brewer Street is now a taqueria and Tramshed, his old 150-cover restaurant in Shoreditch (East London), will become a furniture showroom.

He wrote about the two establishments for The Telegraph.

The owners of the El Pastor taqueria invited him to visit, which he did:

My strongest feeling was not one of regret, or even missing the time when this place was my flagship, but rather of pleasure at seeing it busy and buzzy again. It has a new lease of life. And therefore I wished them well, especially with the landlord, the same greedy one who had doubled the rent when I was the tenant and began the collapse of my London chain of restaurants because we just couldn’t make any money at the rate he was charging.

We have all learnt some important life lessons these past 16 months of Covid. Perhaps the landlord has too in the new business climate it has produced. Most of all, though, what that walk down memory lane did was give me courage.

As for the Tramshed:

I’ve got a date in my diary to go back to the kitchen at the Tramshed, my old 150-cover restaurant in Shoreditch. It is going to be less return in triumph and more fond farewell, for my presence there is, as the theatre posters put it, ‘for one night only’. The guys who have been running it since my business went into administration are moving out and are staging one last hurrah with my help.

Lockdown has killed the place off and it is going to be converted into a furniture showroom of some description. When I took it on in 2012, this handsome building had been used for chemical storage, so I suppose it is a case of back to the future. Which rather neatly sums up my life story since I handed back the keys in March of last year after breaking the news to the staff there that they had lost their jobs.

He foresees a difficult return for hospitality:

I’ve come back to Dorset, where it all started, and am now building a new future. All being well, on Monday we will be taking one more step towards that with the lifting of all Government restrictions on how we trade, but the hard work of repairing the damage done by Covid has only just begun. The road back to prosperity for the whole hospitality industry remains a long one.

As I write, Hix is taking a brief fishing break in Iceland, a country on the Green list.

However, a question remains over whether he and other restaurant owners will be able to trade freely on Monday with the lifting of restrictions. 

Hospitality chiefs are still trying to interpret what Boris Johnson said on Monday, which sounded to me like a U-turn on what he said on July 5. The Times says that masks and outdoor service are still recommended, as is checking customers in with contact details. That is what is in place today.

Furthermore, coronavirus passports, which the Government had previously denied would be recommended, are, in fact, on the table.

On Wednesday, July 14, The Telegraph reported:

Ministers on Wednesday published delayed sectoral advice for businesses on how to operate when the country moves to step four of the Prime Minister’s roadmap out of lockdown next Monday

The Government was accused of widening the net of companies encouraged to use domestic coronavirus passports, after Boris Johnson initially signalled on Monday that they would be recommended for nightclubs and venues with “large crowds”.

The Prime Minister said relevant firms should show “social responsibility” and “make use” of the NHS Covid pass app, which shows proof of double vaccination, a recent negative test or natural immunity, as “a means of entry”.

The updated guidance sparked a backlash among Conservative MP and hospitality chiefs, after advice specifically for restaurants, pubs, bars, nightclubs and takeaway services encouraged the use of Covid passports.

It stated: “Consider the use of the NHS Covid pass to reduce the risk of transmission at your venue or event.”

So far, only Steve Baker MP (Con) has spoken out against this recommendation:

I am simply astonished that after everything the Prime Minister and Michael Gove said in the past about ID cards that they are advancing this fast down this really quite appalling path.

Kate Nicholls, the head of the industry body UK Hospitality, expressed her disappointment and said:

the guidance for pubs and restaurants was “disappointing” in the wake of a select committee of MPs and a Cabinet Office consultation “acknowledging that this was a very difficult thing to implement in a domestic hospitality setting”.

She said ministers needed to provide a “whole suite of guidance” to explain how Covid passports should work in the sector “for us to decide whether we are willing to adopt this on a voluntary basis”.

Predicting few businesses would adopt the measure by Monday, from which date the guidance is meant to apply, she said: “I don’t think anybody would be able to introduce this on a voluntary basis from Monday until we have clarification.”

Ms Nicholls added that “more work is needed by the Government” and warned that there were “real concerns” around equalities legislation, and “practical issues” around the type of testing that qualifies and how businesses should handle customers’ personal health data.

This is an unfortunate development.

Transport

Still on the subject of London, the capital’s mayor, Sadiq Khan (Lab), a strong opponent of his predecessor Boris Johnson, intends to continue with mask mandates on Transport for London (TfL) vehicles and the Tube as a condition of carriage.

Douglas Murray wrote an editorial for The Telegraph in which he says:

Sadiq Khan, for instance, has tried to look super responsible by insisting that even after the rules for mask-wearing are relaxed masks will be compulsory on public transport in London. Obviously, throughout the pandemic, there have been the rules and there has been what people do. I have seen plenty of people get on the bus with their mask on and then pull it under their chin as soon as they are in their seat. We have become used to the theatre of masks.

But the Mayor of London has ordered Transport for London to enforce mask wearing after July 19, making the prospect of a journey on the London Underground even more enjoyable. Citizens of the capital not only have to pay the highest fares of any commuters in the world for one of the world’s worst services, but must now mask up under threat of the London Transport Police if they do not. What a wonderful way to get the capital moving again.

Agreed. It makes no sense, and Khan has complained for months that TfL’s finances have been dire since lockdown started last year. It’s pure political theatre just to oppose Boris Johnson’s government.

Office work

On July 5, the Government encouraged office workers to go back to their workplaces.

This Monday, they backtracked because they got complaints in the media.

The Times has an article about the travel company Tui, which has told its employees they only need to come into the office one day a month, regardless of what happens on July 19.

Other companies have followed suit. However, in the United States, fully-vaccinated employees are expected to be back at their desks by September:

Other businesses adjusting their working practices include KPMG, the accountancy firm, which has told its 16,000 UK staff they should work in the office for up to four days a fortnight. In the US, by way of contrast, Bank of America yesterday followed Goldman Sachs in telling all fully-vaccinated staff to be back at their desks by September.

The policy director of the Institute of Directors says that the Government’s advice this month has been confusing:

Roger Barker, policy director at the Institute of Directors, said: “Like everybody else, businesses across the country having been awaiting ‘freedom day’ with bated breathbut we have had a series of mixed messages and patchwork requirements from government that have dampened enthusiasm.

“Return to work or continue to stay at home. Throw away your masks or continue to wear them. The guidance has done little to dispel that confusion.

Business leaders are understandably confused as to the legal status that this guidance has and are concerned about vulnerability under health and safety legislation, as well as the validity of their insurance.

“Government needs to inspire confidence in businesses and the workforce that we can all return to work safely.”

School

We have little idea of exactly how much school-age children have been suffering over the past year.

One mother and her ex-husband saw how their daughter’s scholastic performance had been declining and put her in an independent school, with financial help from both sets of grandparents.

The mother, Mel Sims, told The Telegraph her story, beginning in the Spring of 2020:

My daughter was in Year 5 when the first lockdown brought her education to an abrupt halt. A bright only child, mature for her age because she spends so much time with adults, she’d been doing very well in the classroom. But then the state primary she attends in our village in Essex closed its doors to all but key worker children. I’m a 49-year-old single mother. My daughter’s father lives in Durham. I had no choice but to become her full-time teacher.

While some of her friends in private or religious schools were receiving a whole day of live Zoom teaching, my daughter’s school was very disappointing. What they did provide was an email every Monday morning, packed with multiple different lessons for parents to print off, somehow quickly get their heads around, then teach to our children as best we could.

My business – a children’s play centre – shut down along with the schools, so I was at home. I found myself teaching my daughter from 9.30am until 4.30pm every day. Other than the weekly email, we received no contact from the school, which, like many, lacks funding and has class sizes of 30-plus. My daughter’s after-school club, where she mixed with older children, was closed. Extracurricular dance classes went on hold and the swimming pool was shut.

Since Covid, my daughter has received very little or no homework as the teachers seem to feel the children already have enough on their plates. I don’t know what happened to her foreign language lessons. My previously high-achieving daughter was starting to fall behind the level she had been at before – not just a little, but dramatically. By the end of each week of lockdown, her maths and English were worse. She’d lost interest in doing better; any desire to excel. It was heartbreaking to see her sliding backwards.

This caused tension between the mother and the school:

Friction began to develop between us and the school, as they resented me trying to push her beyond the slow pace at which her class was moving. Many of the families in our village didn’t even have enough computers for their multiple children. My daughter’s academic success was riding on all the other local parents’ capabilities, and that felt deeply unfair on her.

Schools reopened last autumn then shut down at the end of January 4, 2021 for several weeks. By then, the cumulative negative effect had kicked in:

When the second lockdown arrived, my daughter was in Year 6 [the year before secondary school]. This time, there was at least a school registration every day, which took place over Zoom. But my daughter gained little from it, as everyone on the call was at such different levels both academically and behaviourally. There wasn’t the opportunity for much academic input from the teacher and my daughter quickly grew bored.

Fortunately, the girl had passed her 11-plus exams, which opened up more education opportunities. Her parents decided that she would have to go to an independent day school, but, even pooling their savings together, they could not afford school fees of £5,500 per term. With the help of the girl’s grandparents, they are able to meet the cost of the new school.

Mel Sims concludes:

We’ll all be making big changes. But we’ll do so in order that, if schools do close again, our daughter’s education will not grind to a halt. The new school staff have already assured me that if we go back into lockdown, exactly the same learning will continue over Zoom, full-time and unaided by parents.

I never thought it would come to this. Pre-pandemic, I’d always believed we didn’t need private school; that whatever happened at state school, we could get our daughter through.

School closures have changed all that. Yes, we’re paying a price. But I feel we’ve had to invest in a lockdown-proof education. With so many children off school again even now, as their “bubbles” have burst, it seems we have made the right decision.

Care homes

Recently, Sunrise Senior Living and Gracewell Healthcare, a group which runs 45 private care homes in England and one in Wales, wrote to Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for the Department for Health and Social Care to ask that mask mandates be relaxed.

On Thursday, July 15, The Telegraph reported that:

some of these measures are now damaging the well-being of care home residents.

The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) is expected to issue updated guidance on care homes, and whether or not masks will be mandatory in them, later this week …

“For many residents, a visit from their family member has provided invaluable improvements to their well-being, but the requirement for these visitors to wear a face mask degrades the level of connection and therefore devalues the positive impacts their visits can have.

“This restrictive policy, along with various others from both the DHSC and PHE [Public Health England], should be reconsidered as we approach this next step in England’s roadmap out of lockdown.”

The letter said the success of the vaccination programme among care home staff and residents meant the majority of homes “are now set to confidently return back to an enhanced degree of normality”.

All 46 Sunrise and Gracewell homes have at least 90 per cent of residents vaccinated and all but one have more than 80 per cent of staff jabbed. This is the threshold that the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) says needs to be met in each setting to provide a minimum level of protection against Covid outbreaks.

Helen Whately MP (Con) oversees social care provision. It is unclear as yet whether she will change any requirements for July 19. The Telegraph quoted her as saying:

I’m also really aware that there will be circumstances I’m expecting to continue in health and social care, clearly, where people will need to continue to wear PPE [personal protective equipment], which includes masks.

Conclusion

I find it concerning that the Left, whether in Parliament, SAGE and elsewhere have caused the Government to backtrack on Freedom Day.

As Douglas Murray says in his aforementioned article:

It is inevitable, perhaps, that politicians like Khan want to score some political points. But again what is so strange is that all the points are scored from that side. Putting aside a few MPs on the Tory benches there is no political pressure on us to go the other way. To do so – to advocate the path of greater risk and greater freedomis still presented as though it is somehow irresponsible or otherwise risky.

But society is risky. Life is risky. The biggest leap towards normal life has already been taken. It is the success of the mass vaccination programme which this country has rolled out so well. But after that we do not need politicians and private companies policing us ever more. We need to take a different leap. Not into greater safety, but into greater freedom. Our allies and competitors are up for that. The question now is whether Britain is. An awful lot rides on the answer.

I couldn’t agree more.

As George Orwell wrote:

All animals are equal but some are more equal than others.

This will certainly be even truer in the House of Commons.

As Speaker of the House Sir Lindsay Hoyle reopens that part of the Parliamentary estate on Monday, July 19, just days before summer recess.

MPs can walk around — and attend the chamber — maskless but their staff must remain muzzled:

Guido Fawkes confirmed the arrangement (emphasis in the original):

One miffed staffer points out that for MPs in the chamber, masks will be recommended, however they’ll be “required” for everyone else on the estate…

He adds:

From the start of summer recess, MPs will be able to decide how many of their staff are allowed to return to the office.

In the chamber, social distancing will disappear, and the public gallery will be reopened:

The prayer cards mentioned in that tweet do have a religious significance, although they are largely used for a secular purpose. An MP can write his name on a blank white card and place it in the chamber to reserve his seat for the day. Of course, in order to claim it, he must attend the short prayer session before the Commons day begins. 

The Speaker is calling time on the highly successful hybrid proceedings:

September will see the return of crowded benches. MPs will also be able to travel to Amber list countries:

Mr Speaker is thrilled:

The Commons’ restaurants and watering holes will also reopen:

One rule for MPs, another rule for their staff — and us.

What a surprise!

Monday, July 19, 2021, will not be the long-awaited Freedom Day in England, just an unlocking for larger gatherings and venues, including theatres, nightclubs and strip clubs.

Mask wearing will still be ‘expected’.

In his coronavirus briefing on Monday, July 12, Prime Minister Boris Johnson no longer used the words ‘terminus’ or ‘irreversible’. In fact, he warned about the winter months ahead.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid had announced the very same in his statement to the Commons earlier that afternoon.

At this point, I doubt that we will see any semblance of pre-coronavirus normality until next year. We might even have to have coronavirus passports. Here is the minister in charge of the vaccination programme, Nadhim Zahawi:

Incidentally, French president Emmanuel Macron announced his plans for such passports on Monday for France. He also suggested that vaccinations could be made mandatory if there is not enough take up.

The Telegraph summarised the position in England (emphases mine):

People will be expected to continue wearing masks in indoor spaces, a stricture that will no doubt remain a requirement of entry for shops and hospitality venues as well as being mandated on public transport. Companies eager for their staff to return to the office have been left in an impossible position by ambiguous guidance about working from home. Employees are not being told to stay away but nor are they expected to go to work.

Since Mr Johnson previously said it was “now or never” to end these restrictions, the inescapable conclusion is that it is to be never. If they are to be requirements now, in the middle of summer, how will they not be in the autumn and winter when the number of Covid and flu cases will rise? Some scientists, indeed, have argued that distancing and face coverings should be made permanent.

In the Commons, the Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, confirmed the new tone, saying that next Monday would not be a terminus after all but another step on the road back to normality, though with no indication of when that might be.

If there are good public health reasons for this circumspection then let ministers say so and produce the evidence to justify it. If, however, the four tests set for a full reopening have been met – as Mr Javid told MPs they had been – then let it happen. Worryingly, however, the pledge of an “irreversible” course out of lockdown is no longer being heard.

It is, of course, to be welcomed that Stage 4 of the road map will be implemented next Monday. But for as long as ministerial pronouncements seeking to influence how we should behave stay in place, “Freedom Day” will remain some way off.

The Telegraph‘s Sherelle Jacobs wrote an excellent editorial on the subject: ‘Boris Johnson has lost his nerve and condemned us to Covid no-man’s land’.

She points out that, despite the stellar vaccine rollout, the Government’s response to the virus is essentially the same as it was early in 2020:

I do not envy the Prime Minister. He is having to make decisions in the face of violent resistance from scientists who have strayed far beyond their proper roles as apolitical advisers. It is, however, astonishing that 16 months and 45 million vaccinations later, our basic approach to Covid is still no more sophisticated than it was in March 2020.

She sees the NHS as the tail wagging the British dog, which, by the way, is also true in the devolved nations (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland):

No 10’s priority appears to remain to “protect the NHS” at all costs. Restrictions are still deemed to be a vital tool to prevent ICUs becoming overwhelmed. Far from Britain breaking free, one can only conclude that our liberties will be tethered to ICU capacity indefinitely, with the Government loosening and tightening the reins as Covid fluctuates with the seasons.

The Government may think that it has public opinion on its side. Recent polling suggests that a sizeable proportion of the population would be happy for some restrictions to remain forever, even once the threat of Covid has faded …

The only answer is reforming the NHS:

There is one obvious way out of this. If the NHS is so precious that it is in danger of being overwhelmed even after one of the most comprehensive vaccination programmes in history, then the priority now must be to reform the service to make it fit for purpose. Germany, for instance, with its insurance-based model, has more than four times as many critical care beds per capita as Britain.

The NHS has become the new secular national religion in Britain.

Applauding it last year over so many Thursday nights at 8 o’clock has put it on a pedestal it might not wholly deserve:

The NHS has become Britain’s all-consuming project, the millstone around its neck and the cloying source of confected national pride. Its hold over the country is so powerful that even a so-called libertarian Conservative PM decided this week to risk sacrificing our ordinary freedoms rather than dare to reform it.

She adds an interesting fact about NHS financing in 1948, when it was founded:

As noble as the idea behind the NHS might have been, it is founded on delusions about Britain’s finances. (Indeed Westminster initially partly bankrolled it with foreign money, splitting 1940s Marshall aid between its domestic healthcare dreams and ailing colonial dominions).

We cannot go on like this forever, even though some would like to do so:

the downsides of lockdowns are becoming too enormous to ignore. Their effectiveness is limited in free Western countries plagued by widespread low-level non-compliance and inadequate infection control in care homes and hospitals. Contrastingly, the damage lockdowns cause is limitless – from decimating mental health to destroying children’s education. It is extraordinary that, even now, Johnson only pays lip service to this inescapable truth.

The biggest problem for the foreseeable future will be masks, especially as the Government says they are ‘expected’ in crowded, enclosed spaces. What does that really mean?

Another Telegraph article, by The Spectator‘s Anglo-American Kate Andrews, offers a suggestion to make things clearer:

Boris Johnson’s message last night was that he ‘expects and recommends’ that people continue to wear masks in ‘crowded’ and ‘enclosed’ spaces, or where you come into contact with strangers: a vague, yet seemingly large request. The message could be far more simple: be aware of your surroundings and make an informed decision. This would be a real breakaway from our Covid lifestyles, and a return to the notion of personal responsibility.

The continuation of masks and compliance in this regard could be interpreted in a sinister way:

Perhaps the mask debate playing out now is the one we should have had in the first place. After the Government’s most senior medical and scientific advisers spent months last spring telling the public not to buy or wear masks, the rule changed to mandate them on public transport, punishable by fines. Did we need to criminalise people for not wearing a mask, or might guidance have done the trick? But even now, the push for guidance often reveals itself as a push to keep emergency laws — not to be clearer with the public, but to be harsher.

There has been consensus throughout the pandemic that the British public have been wonderful: thoughtful and willing to uphold their social contract to strangers, to protect the lives of the vulnerable and elderly. Now, as their freedoms are set to be returned, that consensus is breaking. It seems when some were praising the public, they were really praising the rules that hovered over them.

Perhaps so. It is a sobering thought.

In any event, July 19 will not be Freedom Day by any stretch of the imagination. It will certainly not affect me personally, especially if I am still expected to wear a face covering.

I had been looking forward to going out for a long, languorous, maskless lunch in London next month. That will have to wait, probably until 2022.

This week’s coronavirus debates in both houses of Parliament are proof that only the Left want masks and lockdown to stay.

Below are revealing excerpts from debates in the Commons and the Lords.

Emphases mine.

House of Commons

Health Secretary Sajid Javid appeared twice in the House of Commons this week.

Monday, July 5

He delivered his statement about lifting all restrictions, including those for masks, on Monday, July 5.

Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth (Lab) objected:

He will be aware that Israel has reintroduced its mask mandate because of the delta variant, so why is he planning to bin ours? Masks do not restrict freedoms in a pandemic when so much virus is circulating. They ensure that everyone who goes to the shops or who takes public transport can do so safely, because wearing a mask protects others. If nobody is masked, covid risk increases and we are all less safe. He must understand that those in the shielding community are particularly anxious. Why should they feel shut out of public transport and shops because he has abandoned the mask mandate? That is no definition of freedom that I recognise.

Who else suffers when masks are removed? It is those working in shops, those who drive the buses, those who drive taxis and those who work in hospitality—it is the low-paid workers who have also been without access to decent sick pay. Many of them live in overcrowded accommodation. It is those who have been savagely, disproportionately impacted by the virus from day one and now the Secretary of State is asking them to bear the brunt of the increased risk again. Will he explain why he thinks abandoning masks is a sensible proposal to follow?

Dr Philippa Whitford (SNP) also objected:

Why is he planning to end even simple measures such as mask wearing?

As did Caroline Lucas (Green):

Failing to mandate mask-wearing in stuffy crowded places such as public transport, where people are often pressed together for much longer than 15 minutes, risks high costs, and allowing people to choose whether or not to put others at risk is both reckless and unfair. If the freedom to pelt down the motorway at 100 mph is restricted because it poses risks to others, why, with millions still unvaccinated, with some immunosuppressed and with the risk of long covid rising, does the Health Secretary not apply the same logic to mask-wearing?

Patrick Grady (SNP) wants masks to become ‘routine’ in the notional new normal:

Given that masks help to reduce the spread of not just covid, but all kinds of respiratory diseases, is it not important to avoid mixed messages and encourage everyone to continue that kind of practice and the likes of good hand hygiene as a relatively routine part of a new normal, to stop coughs and sneezes from spreading diseases?

Paul Blomfield (Lab) said:

We all want to unlock the economy, but surely we should maintain barriers to infection where we can. The Secretary of State has said that wearing masks would be a good thing, so will he accept that requiring them on public transport, in essential shops and in similar locations would make sense and would reassure people?

Tuesday, July 6

On Tuesday, July 6, Javid delivered a statement on self-isolation and vulnerable people.

By way of response, Jonathan Ashworth had more to say on masks:

Getting back to normal, which we all want to do, depends on people feeling safe. Does the Secretary of State appreciate that those who are immunocompromised, or for whom the vaccination is less effective, will have their freedoms curtailed by ditching masks on public transport? Blood Cancer UK warned yesterday that people with blood cancer will feel like their freedoms have been taken away when mask wearing lifts. What is his message to those with blood cancer? It is not good enough simply to say that people should travel or go to the shops at less busy times.

Of course, the Secretary of State understands the importance of masks. I have now read his Harvard pandemic paper, to which he likes to refer. He praises the use of masks in this paper, but he also warns:

“Changing course in policy making…is an essential feature of good policy making. Yet, politicians find it hard”

because of—

“the tendency for decisions to become psychologically and emotionally anchored.”

Well, I agree with him, and I hope he still agrees with himself. Let us have a U-turn on mask wearing. Yes, let us have freedom, but not a high-risk free for all. Keep masks for now, fix sick pay and let us unlock in a safe and sustainable way.

Martyn Day (SNP) agreed:

In a poll by New Scientist, a majority of disease experts said that some form of mask-wearing would be required until 2022. Others thought that 2023 or later was the correct time to lift mask requirements—more than agreed with the Government’s position of ending the requirements this year. For the sake of clarity and honesty, can the Secretary of State confirm that the UK Government have stopped listening to the science on their covid policy? Tragically, we have 150,000 people dead already, and the Prime Minister has said that we must reconcile ourselves, sadly, to more deaths from covid, so perhaps the Secretary of State can enlighten us as to how many more deaths the UK Government think acceptable.

Tulip Siddiq (Lab) brought up public transport:

The flu season that we have just been through was the mildest on record, thanks in no small part to the fact that we have all been wearing masks to protect against coronavirus. Public Health England has warned that we could see a flu surge in winter, as we have not had much recent exposure to and therefore immunity from other respiratory viruses. What is the Secretary of State doing to prepare for this? Does he agree that we should keep the wearing of masks compulsory on public transport to keep covid cases down and prepare for the flu season?

Matt Western (Lab) wants England to emulate the Far East:

Case rates are currently eight or nine per 100,000 in Korea and Japan, yet those countries—certainly Korea—are still mandating the wearing of masks. In the light of that, what does the Secretary of State think we should be doing, because those places are clearly having success?

House of Lords

The House of Lords held debates on Sajid Javid’s vaccine-driven strategy for Freedom Day on July 19.

The Left-leaning among the noble lords were furious.

Tuesday, July 6

Below are excerpts from Tuesday’s debate.

The Lords direct their questions to a Government minister, in this case, Lord Bethell (Con).

Baroness Thornton (Lab) had a lot to say about masks. She is old enough to have had both ‘jabs’, therefore, in theory, she should not be worried:

We have government Ministers saying different things about what they personally intend to do; last night, we had a clear message from the CMO [Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty] about the circumstances under which he intends to wear a mask. So I think that we have every right to be concerned that the debate may cause confusion and compromise crucial safety.

Let us look at public transport, for example. I have been using public transport throughout. I started wearing a mask long before it became mandatory. I still do not feel safe on a very crowded Tube, and I still do not want anyone to sit next to me. I test twice a week, and I have self-isolated twice since January when I got pinged. I do not think that I am unusual or nervous, but I feel strongly that I have a duty not to unwittingly spread the virus, and I do not want people to infect me. In a recent travel study, a majority of passengers said that they would lose confidence if the use of face masks were reduced. Many people, especially those who are more vulnerable, may become more anxious about using public transport if face masks become voluntary.

What is the Minister’s answer to these legitimate concerns? Does it go with the view that we let the virus rip and take the consequences? Given that we know that bus and taxi drivers experience Covid and death, what does the Minister have to say to them about their safety in these circumstances? Masks do not restrict freedoms in a pandemic when so much virus is circulating; they ensure that everyone who goes to the shops or takes public transport can do so safely. Who suffers most when masks are removed? It is those working in the shops, those driving the buses and taxis, and low-paid workers without access to decent pay, many of whom live in overcrowded housing and have been savagely, disproportionately impacted by this virus from day one.

We know that masks are effective when a virus is airborne. Given that high circulations of virus can see it evolve and possibly escape vaccine, what risk assessment have the Government done on the possibility of a new variant emerging? Will the Minister publish that assessment?

Baroness Brinton (Lib Dem) followed her, also with much to say on masks, putting forward the example in the Far East:

We on these Benches want to start with a return to normal and to lift restrictions. We desperately need to kick-start the economy, to start to socialise again and, as my noble friend Lord Scriven said last month, to live with Covid as it is now endemic and will be with us for some years to come. However, that means providing the safety net needed to ensure that people are as safe as possible. Asian countries that managed their pandemic well learned from SARS. The use of face masks became routine and a matter of personal and wider social responsibility, allowing life to continue in the flu season and in the pandemic. They also maintain strong and effective test, trace and isolate systems all the time. We will be discussing test, trace and isolate in detail following the Statement that is due to come to your Lordships’ House on Thursday, but the proposed reductions in test, trace and isolate will remove the UK’s ability to manage outbreaks swiftly, during which time others will catch and pass on Covid.

When we drive into our towns and cities, we rely on local authorities to set up traffic systems, including traffic lights, to help to guide us on safe journeys, regulate movement and reduce harm and damage. But it is as if “freedom day” is getting rid of all our traffic lights.

Proportionate responses are needed, and these include face masks. Early last year, even the WHO was equivocal on the use of face masks but, as the world became aware that this is a respiratory disease passed on through droplets, most countries moved to face mask mandates. On 19 July we switch to rules that make it only the responsibility of individuals. Thankfully, most people have taken that responsibility seriously, but not everyone has. That is important because, despite what the Minister said in response to my question yesterday about the clinically extremely vulnerable, there is no direct reference to the CEV in this Statement—unless he meant the passing reference to them being part of the priority group that will get the third jab. They need to know where they stand. There is no new advice, just the burning of the remaining rules that keep them safe.

I’m including part of Lord Bethell’s reply, because I have not covered the Lords as much as I have the Commons:

I have four children—who are vectors of infection, to put it politely—and I attend a large number of business meetings, including here in the House, and I regard myself as a high-risk candidate for carrying the disease.

I have never caught it myself and I have been vaccinated but when I sit on a Tube train I wear my mask, not to protect myself but to protect the person next to me. That is my personal assessment and my personal decision. That is the spirit in which we are inviting people to step forward and make their own decisions and to be considerate to each other.

We cannot have laws on all these matters for the rest of time. At some point we have to ask the country to step up and take responsibility and to have personal agency in these decisions. If we do not put that challenge to the country in the summer months, when our hospitals are relatively safe and the virus has the right conditions, when will we be able to make those decisions?

Lord Campbell-Savours (Lab) put forward a case for the vulnerable, a tiny proportion of the English population:

My Lords, is it not obvious that if you reduce mask wearing on public transport and in public places, those who believe they are more exposed to the virus will then reduce their use of public transport and avoid public places? People who are fearful of more liberated environments will avoid them, leading to a slowdown in the return to work that the Government want. Indeed, it is the reverse of what the Government want. Why remove those restrictions that offer the only way of securing public confidence in the new regime that is being proposed?

Lord Bethell replied:

I applaud the noble Lord for his advocacy of mask wearing, but of course this issue cuts both ways. He is right that we need to build back trust in sharing space with one another, but I am not sure that mandatory mask wearing either builds trust or erodes it. If we give people the impression that wearing masks is somehow a panacea that protects everyone on a tube train or in a lift, that is a false impression. Masks are not a panacea. In fact, for some people, they can be a source of grave concern and be enough to send them back home to seek safety. I take the noble Lord’s point that we have to be clear about this, but I am not sure that mandatory mask wearing, or even ubiquitous mask wearing, is either a universal antidote to the spread of the disease or necessarily builds trust in the manner he describes.

Baroness Tyler of Enfield (Lib Dem) spoke next:

My Lords, continuing on this theme: “masks work” is the clear message from Public Health England. Both Sir Patrick Vallance and Professor Chris Whitty have said that they will continue to wear a mask in crowded indoor spaces, primarily because it protects others. Critically, it does not hold back the opening up of the economy, but rather provides a safeguard as social distancing rules are relaxed. Can the Minister tell me why there is so little in the Statement about our social responsibility to others, including front-line transport and shop workers, and the clinically extremely vulnerable? In this scrapping of masks, we are condemning millions with poor immune systems to be trapped in their homes, too afraid to go to the shops or their workplace or to use public transport.

Lord Bethell responded, saying that people who are ill should stay at home:

Since this is the second question on masks, I hope the noble Baroness will not mind if I go off on a tangent. Masks do work a bit; they are not a panacea. What is really important is that when you are ill, you stay at home. That is the big behavioural change that will make a big difference in the year to come. That is where Britain has got it wrong in the past. Too often we have put our workmates, fellow travellers and school friends at risk by heroically going into crowded indoor places and coughing all over them. I hope that is one habit that will stop and that that will be a legacy of this awful pandemic.

Baroness Donaghy (Lab) said that not enough people were being penalised for ignoring the mask mandate:

My Lords, one person’s choice is another’s imposition. Even when mask wearing was mandatory on the tube, some broke the law and there was no policing. So-called choice will cause conflict and confusion. Can the Minister assure me that the Government are not reverting to type and their original herd immunity policy based not on the science but on “let us see how it falls”? Although he does not accept any deaths, as he said, what assessment has been made of the impact of this new policy on death rates and long Covid rates?

Lord Bethell countered, saying that a lot of fines had been issued:

My Lords, I do not have the figures to hand, but I reassure the noble Baroness that the policy on masks was very diligently imposed and a large number of people did get fined. We have to ask ourselves as a society whether we really want to live in a country where simple behavioural habits, such as wearing a mask or not, make you susceptible to arrest or fines. That is a very uncomfortable place for a country to find itself. The noble Baroness is right: that does introduce ambiguity, but we are sophisticated people and can live with a degree of ambiguity. We need to learn how to live not only with this disease but with each other. The dilemma that the noble Baroness points out is one that we will all have to debate, understand and learn to live with. We are not in any way letting this disease get on top of us. We are fighting it through the vaccine, we are supporting the vaccine with test and trace, and we have a tough borders measure. We are taking the battle to the virus and will continue to do so.

Only one Conservative peer spoke out in favour of masks, Lord Bellingham, who said:

My Lords, as a strong supporter of the Government’s policy on the coronavirus, I was nevertheless critical of them being very slow to enunciate a clear policy on masks over a year ago—so I have a lot of sympathy with those noble Lords who have expressed concern about the imminent lifting of compulsion regarding masks. Surely one possible compromise might be to keep masks where you have passengers on public transport sitting or standing next to each other?

Lord Bethell replied, saying that it would be up to local councils and transport companies, rather than the Government:

My Lords, I hear my noble friend’s words loud and clear. The Government have indicated that we will leave it to those who run the transport systems themselves and to local politicians. There is a good case for a degree of devolvement and subsidiarity in this matter. He is right that masks do perform an important role, but they are not a catch-all, and it is therefore reasonable to leave those who run the transport systems to make decisions for themselves.

Thursday, July 8

On Thursday, July 8, another debate on the Government’s new coronavirus strategy took place.

Once again, Baroness Thornton (Lab) had a lot to say. With regard to masks, she mentioned the tiny minority of people living in England with poor health:

Does the Minister appreciate that those who are immunocompromised or for whom the vaccine is less effective will have their freedoms curtailed by ditching masks on public transport? Blood Cancer UK warned yesterday that people with blood cancer will feel that their freedoms have been taken away from them.

Baroness Brinton (Lib Dem) followed her. She was horrified by what she saw on television following the England-Denmark match:

Wonderful as yesterday’s England victory was, the sight of 60,000 fans walking down Wembley Way in very close proximity with hardly a mask in sight was concerning. As with the England-Scotland match, we must expect a surge in cases. Yesterday, the BBC asked Dr Mike Ryan of the World Health Organization about the UK proposals to lift all restrictions on 19 July. He replied:

“The logic of more people being infected is better is, I think, logic that has proven its moral emptiness and epidemiological stupidity”.

The letter in today’s Lancet from 100 senior medics and scientists echoes the WHO view. What are the Government doing to explain to the experts why their strategy is safe? …

Last night, Sebastian Payne of the Financial Times reported the re-election of Sir Graham Brady MP as chairman of the 1922 committee, and tweeted:

“Brady’s re-election is … a reminder of why Johnson is dropping masks and nearly all other … restrictions on July 19: ministers privately say the government no longer had the … votes to keep the measures in place. Relying on Labour would have been … difficult for the PM.”

Are the Prime Minister and the so-called Covid Recovery Group now putting health and lives at risk for their own principles?

Lord Bethell replied, saying that it was better to reopen England now rather than wait until autumn or winter, when the NHS would be under pressure:

… the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, half-answered her own question, because she is entirely right: we need to focus on getting the NHS back to speed in order to address the very long waiting lists and to get elective surgery back on track. It is very difficult to find an answer to the question, “If not now, when?” That has been tackled by the CMO and a great number of people. It must surely be right that we take the inevitable risks of restarting the economy and getting people back to their normal lives at the moment of minimum risk from the virus, which has to be in the middle of summer. Assessing those risks precisely is incredibly complex. Impact assessments of the kind that we would normally associate with legislation are the product of months of analysis. They often identify one relatively straightforward and simple policy measure. We are talking here about a machine of a great many moving parts.

I cannot guarantee that any model anywhere could give us accurate projections of the exact impact of what is going to happen this summer. We are, to a certain extent, walking into the unknown: the Prime Minister made that extremely clear in his Statement. As such, we are ready to change and tweak our policy wherever necessary in reaction to events. However, what we know very well now on the basis of our assessment of the data, and because of the pause we put in place to give ourselves breathing time to assess and additional time to roll out the vaccinations, is that that direct correlation between the infection rate and severe disease, hospitalisation and death has massively diminished. There is a relationship, but it is a fraction of what it used to be.

We can therefore look at a period where those who are at extremely low risk of any severe disease may see an increase in the infection rate, because we know that those in the highest-risk groups have been protected by two doses of the vaccine, and two weeks, and because we are working incredibly hard to get as many in the high-risk groups vaccinated as possible—half a million a day—and to roll out the vaccine to younger cohorts. That is the balance. I cannot deal in certainty here, because certainty does not exist. Balance is key, and I believe the balance we have here is the right one.

A Cross-bencher, Baroness Bull, cited the editor-in-chief of The Lancet — another leftist, as we saw last summer — which called the Government’s new policy ‘libertarian’:

My Lords, 120 scientists have written to the Lancet and today come together in an emergency summit to ask the Government to rethink their plans. The editor in chief warned against

“a plan driven more by libertarian ideology than prudent interpretation of the data”

and called for continued mask-wearing, distancing and increased vaccine coverage. A YouGov survey found that two-thirds of people want to continue with masks and an ALVA survey found that three-quarters of people did. So why have the Government decided to end this simple yet effective measure? It costs the economy nothing, but it would be life-changing for the clinically extremely vulnerable, who will be forced back into lockdown by this shift from a public health approach to so-called personal responsibility.

Lord Bethell said that the policy was not at all ‘libertarian’:

I am always grateful for the challenge of medics in the Lancet and elsewhere. I would like to reassure them that this is not a question of libertarian ideology but a question of assessing the risks faced by the country. We have discussed masks several times in the Chamber. I would like to reassure the noble Baroness that masks simply are not a panacea; were the whole country to wear masks for the rest of their lives, we would still have pandemics because they offer only marginal protection.

One peer voiced his disapproval:

Nonsense!

Lord Bethell replied:

I am afraid we cannot have in place laws on the intimate practicalities of people’s lives for the long term. We do not have a law on sneezing. I would not think of sneezing in the presence of noble Lords, but I do not accept that I should be given a fine for doing so.

I’ll leave it at that.

Conclusion

It is abundantly clear, with only one Conservative peer speaking in favour of masks and many Left-leaning MPs and peers supporting continued muzzling, that they do not trust the general public — the great unwashed who pay their salaries.

We, the great unwashed, however, do have the brains, the intellect and the discernment to think for ourselves and do the right thing.

If that is libertarianism, count me in.

On Monday, July 5, 2021, Richard Madeley, an occasional co-presenter on ITV’s Good Morning Britain (GMB), asked SAGE member Susan Michie if her avowed Communism affects her coronavirus recommendations to the general public:

It must have come as a surprise to a number of GMB‘s viewers who probably did not suspect that a card-carrying Communist works for the Government.

Michie, a psychologist who is also a professor at University College London, works on the SPI-B — behavioural — committee of SAGE which has been driving public behaviour during the pandemic. She appears most frequently on the BBC but also on other television channels.

She was also a speaker at the UN’s Psychology Day in 2020. The Division of Health Psychology of the British Psychological Society, of which she is a member, tweeted:

I’ve written about Michie three times before, twice in the run-up to Christmas (here and here) and once in June.

Before I get to Richard Madeley’s interview with Prof Michie, the tweets below show what Communist health policy looks like. We’ve been living under such rules for 16 months and counting.

2018 Daily Mail article

But first, here is a brief retrospective from the time when Jeremy Corbyn was Labour leader.

In 2018, the Daily Mail posted an extensive article about her support of Corbyn and her praise of Communism. Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

This is her family background. Much of the £52 million she inherited from her mother was in a Picasso, which she and another family member sold:

Susan Fiona Dorinthea Michie is the granddaughter of Henry McLaren, the 2nd Baron Aberconway, an Eton-educated Edwardian industrialist and Liberal MP. 

He inherited major interests in coal, iron, steel and engineering conglomerates, and created the sumptuous gardens at Bodnant House, a stately home set in 5,000 acres near Snowdonia.

Her mother, Dame Anne McLaren, was born at Aberconway House, the family’s imposing 2,800-square-metre second residence in London‘s Mayfair, and was one of the world’s leading biologists. When she died in 2007, aged 80, she left £52million in her will.

Ms Michie’s father, meanwhile, was an eminent computer scientist who was the son of a wealthy banker whose photo is among the National Portrait Gallery’s collection.

Despite these moneyed roots, the blue-blooded Susan, 62, marches to the beat of her own drum.

She stretches her every sinew in pursuance of a class war as a member of the Communist Party of Britain.

The article then described the speech she gave in early March 2018:

On Monday night, she addressed a meeting of about 40 true believers at the Marx Memorial Library in London’s Clerkenwell.

She delivered her speech while standing beneath a portrait of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, a bronze of Lenin and an array of Soviet flags

Seemingly oblivious to the irony, this lifelong beneficiary of inherited wealth began by saying: ‘We, the working class.’

During the course of a two-hour talk, Ms Michie (whose day-job is as a university academic) made a comment that broke almost a century of hard-Left tradition. 

Britain’s Communist Party, she said, is urging its members to work ‘full tilt’ to help get a Labour prime minister.

This development — after decades of Communists and Labour operating on very separate lines — is a direct result of Labour’s lurch to the hard Left under Jeremy Corbyn.

Already, there have been signs of this change of policy with the Communists deciding last year not to split the Left-wing vote by fielding their own candidates at the General Election.

With the two parties increasingly in harmony (Ms Michie declared it ‘a really good situation to work much more closely than we have in the past’), the Communists — by way of a ‘priority’ — are advising their comrades to actively campaign on Corbyn’s behalf.

In the general election of December 2019, Labour suffered its worst result since 1935.

Sir Keir Starmer eventually replaced Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader.

Now on to Michie’s activity as a SAGE member.

Regular media appearances

By May 2020, Michie was already becoming a regular guest on various news programmes:

As Guido Fawkes explained, Michie is not only a member of SAGE but also Independent SAGE, a breakaway group (emphases in the original, those in purple mine):

Susan Michie is a Marxist campaigner who has managed to get herself on not only the activist dominated fake SAGE, she is also on the official SAGE. Quite an achievement and evidence of the time and effort she is dedicating to the cause…

Michie is Professor of Health Psychology and Director of the Centre for Behaviour Change at UCL, so prima facie she has the credentials to be a scientific advisor. What is never mentioned at any point to give context to her many media appearances, in which she usually launches a tirade at the government, is that she has for 40 years been a member of of the Communist Party of Britain.

All this has not precluded her from using family wealth to financially support the Labour Party under the Corbyn leadership. In March 2018, it was Michie who said that the Communist Party would no longer stand against Labour in general elections and she should be “working full tilt” for the election of Corbyn as PM. Hardly surprising given her daughter was appointed under him to Labour HQ and her ex-husband was Corbyn’s close adviser. That illustrates the level of her dedication to far-left politics.

Two days later, the Father of the House, Peter Bottomley MP (Con), appeared on Radio 4’s Broadcasting House programme to lambaste the BBC for not revealing her political philosophy and connections:

He said (audio in Guido’s post):

If one of your previous contributors has been a member of a far left party for decades, donated more to the Labour Party under Corbyn than I’ve given to the Tory Party in forty years, was the wife of a former Labour Party special adviser and mother of Labour’s head of complaints, that might have been better than just saying she’s a member of SAGE.

The BBC called Bottomley’s remarks an:

ad hominem attack.

Prof Stephen Reicher, who teaches at St Andrews in Scotland, is another SAGE member who works on SPI-B. He took issue with Prime Minister Boris Johnson for not sacking his then-special adviser Dominic Cummings after his fateful trip to County Durham during lockdown. Michie agreed:

She is clearly not a Boris fan, nor is The Guardian‘s Carole Cadwalladr:

Lockdown and mask fan

In May, it was becoming clear to a segment of the British population that Michie favoured a Chinese-style handling of the pandemic. An Anglican clergyman tweeted:

The accompanying article from Michie in The Psychologist is a mild one about directing the public’s response to the pandemic. Notable is this sentence (emphases mine below):

If these behaviours changed across the population (as seatbelt use and smoking in public places have), the Covid-19 pandemic would extinguish.

In July 2020, masks had been compulsory on public transport since mid-June, but were not yet mandatory elsewhere. Michie told LBC’s Andrew Castle that they must be required:

By November, more Britons were finding out the truth about Michie:

When Boris banned Christmas, lockdown sceptic Dick Delingpole tweeted:

Michie started 2021 by asking why people were not complying with the mask mandate:

In April, mainstream journalists were finally beginning to reveal Michie’s political persuasion:

Guido Fawkes reminded his readers that he had unearthed the information in May 2020:

In June, despite Boris’s stellar rollout of the vaccine programme — still the best in Europe — Michie, laughing, told Channel 5 News that we would have to wear masks ‘forever’ (00:57 – 1:05):

A week later, she complained to Freddie Sayers of UnHerd that she had been misquoted (video at the link):

I actually used four words [in that interview with Channel 5], and only one of them was reported. The full words I used were “forever to some extent”. What I mean by this is that, sadly, this isn’t going to be the last pandemic. For as long as humans are around viruses are going to be around …

In reality, as you can see in the Channel 5 video above, her first answer was ‘Forever’. When the interviewer expressed her astonishment, Michie gave the longer response.

She told Sayers that she wanted a delay to Freedom Day, which was to have been on June 21. She must be happy:

I don’t think there’s really any alternative other than delaying for four weeks and seeing what’s happening. It’s a very tricky situation… I think [Boris] is right — I think the question is: is it going to be sufficient?

She probably opposes the possible July 19 Freedom Day, too.

She clearly did not want to discuss her communist beliefs with Sayers:

My politics are not anything to do with my scientific advice. And I’ve never discussed my politics with people like yourself, so nor am I going to now. And the important thing is that when one gives scientific advice, one does so using the expertise one has — not going beyond the expertise, being transparent about what expertise you provide. And I think that the kind of articles you refer to are a really disturbing kind of McCarthyite witch hunting, which I don’t think should have any place in a liberal tolerant society.

Richard Madeley’s interview

This brings me neatly to Richard Madeley’s interview from Monday morning, July 5.

Guido Fawkes broke the story, along with the video (emphases in the original):

Guido commends Richard Madeley for being the first TV host in the country to invite “Independent” SAGE’s Susan Michie on to their show and finally confront her about her hard-left politics. Madeley rightly points out that activist expert Michie’s love of national Covid restrictions may not be born from her concern for the nation’s health, rather the default policy position of a hard-core, state-loving communist. It looked like Susan didn’t appreciate this line of questioning…

Lockdown Sceptics has the transcript (emphases in purple mine):

Richard Madeley: There’s a point I really have to put to you and you’ll be aware of this because there’s been a lot of commentary about this in the British media about you and it’s to do with your politics and you know what I’m going to ask you. You’ve been a member of the Communist Party for about 40 years now, you’re still a member, and we know that they’re statist. We look at Communist countries around the world and we see that they are tremendously top down dominant and controlled societies that they rule over. I just wonder – and I’m putting this question on behalf of those who wonder about your politics – if your politics actually informs your sense of control? It’s not just the medical arguments, but you have a kind of a political bent to want the state to tell people what to do?

Susan Michie: I’ve come on your programme as a scientist, as do all people who come on to your programme as scientists. They come on to talk about the evidence, relevant theories, how we approach our scientific disciplines, and you don’t ask other scientists about politics so I’m very happy to speak about science which is what my job is and to limit it to that.

RM: So you’re saying that your politics doesn’t inform your opinion on this subject?

SM: I’m saying that I agreed to come on this programme as a scientist and I’m very happy to talk to you about the issues that you’re raising as a scientist which is the same for other scientists that you invite on to the programme.

Michie has a large house in a leafy part of London, but the video clip says Berkshire for her location. So, she must be one of those privileged people with two homes. Could one call her Berkshire place a dacha?

If Michie thought her interview with Richard Madeley was a one-off, she was wrong.

On Tuesday, July 6, Times journalist Matthew Syed brought up her Communism in his interview with the BBC’s Jo Coburn on Politics Live:

Syed mentioned Michie by name and said that it would be wrong for a political agenda to determine a pandemic response:

Guido Fawkes provided this analysis of what Syed said:

On Politics Live earlier Matthew Syed succinctly made the point that Richard Madeley was inching towards yesterday – the issue of the card-carrying communist Susan Michie, of the self-appointed “Independent” SAGE, being given frequent media platforms to smuggle in her political agenda under the guise of “science”. Michie is a committed Marxist ideologue, and central committee member of the British Communist Party. This is relevant.

Marxist analysis understands socialism itself to be a scientific method for understanding and predicting social, economic and material phenomena to derive probable outcomes and probable future developments. Her life-long ideology feeds into her work as director of UCL’s Centre for Behaviour Change. That theoretical underpinning to her ideas on behavioural change and social compliance has gone unexplored even as she has been given a position advising the government in these matters. She has spoken approvingly of the Chinese Communist dictatorship’s authoritarian methods and of her belief that restrictions in Britain should continue “forever, to some extent.” Her whole mindset is one of top-down control and diktat that is incompatible with a free and open society.

Before anyone claims that Syed is a misogynist or a right-wing Murdoch lackey – he has a very readable intellectual column in the Sunday TimesGuido would remind them that he stood as the Labour candidate in the 2001 UK general election. At the very least it is fair to discount Michie’s advice in the light of her ideological activism.

However, as the aforementioned Lockdown Sceptics article says, complete with a tweet, one woman accused Good Morning Britain of misogyny and asked people to stop watching the programme in protest.

Toby Young, who wrote the article, says that her sex had nothing to do with Madeley’s question. It was her politics (emphases mine):

I really don’t get why it was “misogynistic” of Madeley to ask Susan Michie whether her hard left politics have affected her position on mask mandates. Of course they have! After all, forcing people to wear masks as a condition of participating in certain activities is a flagrant breach of their liberty and the reason Michie doesn’t care about that and thinks public health concerns should take priority (even though there’s precious little evidence that masks reduce transmission of the virus) must in part be because she’s a communist, who famously don’t put much value on individual freedom. And the reason Madeley hasn’t put the same question to other members of SAGE is not because Michie’s a woman, but because she’s the only one who’s been a member of the Communist Party for the past 40 years.

True.

However, by July 8, Ofcom, the media watchdog, received 145 complaints about Madeley’s interview:

Guido reported that one of the 145 complainants was Michie herself (emphases in the original):

Ofcom are unlikely to rule against Madeley for asking a question Michie did not want to answer; that’s an editorial judgement way outside Ofcom’s remit. Yet apparently for 145 viewers, it was all too much. Of course, amongst those complaining was Michie herself, who took to Twitter to write:

“A complaint has been submitted and a public apology requested”.

If Michie and 144 other pearl-clutching viewers were upset by Madeley, Guido has to wonder what they thought of Matthew Syed’s comments on Politics Live yesterday…

What concerns me is that Susan Michie might not be the only Communist in SAGE.

If only we could find out more about the political proclivities of the other members.

My post yesterday discussed the analysis of what Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Sajid Javid might announce on Monday, July 5, with regard to England’s Freedom Day, pencilled in for July 19.

Speaker of the House Sir Lindsay Hoyle wanted to ensure that both men gave their announcements at the same time:

Boris Johnson’s coronavirus briefing

Rev.com has a transcript of Boris’s televised coronavirus briefing.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

Boris acknowledged that cases would continue to rise for the time being, however, the highly successful vaccine rollout would mitigate the dangers to the general public:

As we predicted in the roadmap in February, we’re seeing cases rise fairly rapidly. There could be 50,000 cases detected per day by the 19th, and again, as we predicted, we’re seeing rising hospital admissions, and we must reconcile ourselves, sadly, to more deaths from COVID. In these circumstances, we must take a careful and a balanced decision, and there’s only one reason why we can contemplate going ahead to step four in circumstances where we’d normally be locking down further, and that’s because of the continuing effectiveness of the vaccine rollout.

Reopening now, in mid-summer, will be safer than waiting until autumn or winter, when demand for the NHS will be much higher for respiratory disease. As such, the only alternative would be not to reopen at all this year:

… we must be honest with ourselves that if we can’t reopen our society in the next few weeks, when we will be helped by the arrival of summer and by the school holidays, then we must ask ourselves, when will we be able to return to normal? And to those who say we should delay again, the alternative to that is to open up in winter, when the virus will have an advantage, or not at all this year.

The Government and SAGE will look at the latest data on July 12, which will determine a final decision on July 19.

Boris laid out his five-point plan. First, the vaccine rollout is being ramped up:

without preempting the decision on the 12th of July, let me set out today our five point plan for living with COVID, in the hope that it will give families and businesses time to prepare. First, we will reinforce our vaccine more, reducing the dose interval for under 40s from 12 weeks to eight, so that everyone under 18 should be double jabbed by the middle of September, in addition to our autumn program of booster vaccines for the most vulnerable.

Secondly, nearly all restrictions will be lifted, including working from home:

Second, we will change the basic tools that we have used to control human behavior, we’ll move away from legal restrictions and allow people to make their own informed decisions about how to manage the virus. From step four, we will remove all legal limits on the numbers meeting indoors and outdoors. We will allow all businesses to reopen, including nightclubs. We will lift the limit on named visitors to care homes, and on numbers of people attending concerts, theater, and sports events. We will end the one meter plus rule on social distancing, and the legal obligation to wear a face covering, although guidance will suggest where you might choose to do so, especially when cases are rising and where you come into contact with people you don’t normally meet in enclosed spaces, such as obviously crowded public transport.

It will no longer to be necessary for government to instruct people to work from home. So, employers will be able to start planning a safe return to the workplace. There will be no COVID certificate required as a condition of entry to any venue or event. Although businesses and events can certainly make use of certification, and the NHS app gives you a COVID pass as one way to show your COVID status.

Thirdly, test-trace-isolate will continue, and the Government will plan something different for schools in future:

Third, we will continue from step four to manage the virus with a test, trace and isolate system that is proportionate to the pandemic. You will have to self-isolate if you test positive, or are told to do so by NHS test and trace. But we’re looking to move to a different regime of fully vaccinated contacts of those testing positive, and also for children. And tomorrow, the education secretary will announce our plans to maintain key protections, but remove bubbles and contact isolation for pupils.

The fourth point involves maintaining ‘tough’ border controls (hmm):

Fourth, from step four we will maintain our tough border controls, including the red list, and recognizing the protection afforded by two does of vaccine, we will work with the travel industry towards removing the need for fully vaccinated arrivals to isolate on return from an amber country, and the transport secretary will provide a further update later this week.

The fifth, and final, point is to do everything possible to avoid a winter lockdown:

Last, we will continue to monitor the data and retain contingency measures to help manage the virus during higher risk periods, such as the winter. But we will place an emphasis on strengthened guidance and do everything possible to avoid reimposing restrictions, with all the costs that they bring.

The rest of the transcript covers the latest data, which Sir Patrick Vallance presented, and answers to the press from Prof Chris Whitty, both of whom are SAGE members.

The BBC’s Vicki Young asked the three men about mask wearing.

Boris said that people should start taking personal responsibility for their own decisions:

On your question about will I personally wear a mask, I think that, as I said earlier on, it will depend on the circumstances. I think that what we’re trying to do is move from a universal government diktat to relying on people’s personal responsibility.

Boris doesn’t need to wear a mask, as he’s already had the virus. However, he probably wants to set an example for the nation.

Chris Whitty threw a spanner into the works with his answer:

In terms of wearing a mask, I would wear a mask under three situations and I would do so particularly at this point when the epidemic is clearly significant and rising. And the first is in any situation which was indoors and crowded or indoors with close proximity to other people. And that is because masks help protect other people, this is a thing we do to protect other people, as it’s by far its principle aim. The second situation I’d do it is if I was required to by any competent authority, I would have no hesitation about doing that and I would consider that within a reasonable and sensible thing if they had good reasons to do that. And the third reason is if someone else was uncomfortable if I did not wear a mask, as a point of common courtesy of course I would wear a mask. So under all those circumstances I would do so.

Sir Patrick confirmed Whitty’s response:

… just a reminder masks are most effective at preventing somebody else catching the disease from you. They have some effect to prevent you catching it as well. And the situation you’re most likely to catch COVID in is indoors crowded spaces. So that’s the obvious place where mask wearing becomes an advantage.

Tell me that will not cause mask rage on and after July 19.

Earlier that day, Guido Fawkes reported that Labour’s big city mayors all want to keep a mask mandate, as do union bosses (emphases in the original):

Labour mayors Sadiq Khan, Andy Burnham, Dan Norris and Steve Rotheram all seem reluctant to bin the masks. As such it’s unclear whether masks will continue to be mandated on public transport – which is under the remit of mayors. If Khan had his way, Guido suspects that no one would be boarding the freedom train any time soon…

Unite the union are also calling on ministers to keep face masks mandatory on public transport, writing that optional face coverings would be “an act of gross negligence by the government”

However, a Conservative MP is rightly vexed by the ambiguity of the Government’s upcoming guidance on the matter:

Huw Merriman, Tory Chairman of the Commons Transport Committee has slammed the government’s “confusing” policy arguing that scrapping mask laws whilst simultaneously recommending they be worn is a “cop out.” He says guidance should be scrapped in its entirety… 

I couldn’t agree more. Why squander the success of the vaccination programme?

Sajid Javid

In his statement to the House of Commons, Sajid Javid said much the same as Boris.

He explained that hospitalisations and deaths are decreasing:

As such, even if cases continue to increase over the coming weeks, there will be less pressure on the NHS (the original reason for lockdown in 2020):

We cannot live like this ‘forever’. Furthermore, because of the pandemic, we have other challenges that need to be addressed:

Social distancing will go, except at ports of entry for travel and for medical settings:

Javid did warn that flu might be a problem this winter:

School bubbles will also be abolished:

It was then the turn of Shadow (Opposition) Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth to respond.

Not surprisingly, Ashworth wants masks to continue:

These photos are from Javid’s statement and the ensuing debate. Clockwise from top left are Jonathan Ashworth, Sajid Javid, Father of the House (longest serving male MP) Peter Bottomley and the SNP’s Dr Philippa Whitford:

On Tuesday, July 6, Javid returned to the Commons to make a statement on self-isolation, which will be relaxed in certain circumstances:

He reiterated the need for personal responsibility to begin, as there are other looming health issues that have gone unaddressed:

Jeremy Hunt (Con), his predecessor (before Matt Hancock), is rightly concerned about delays to cancer treatment:

Gavin Williamson

On Tuesday, Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson, laid out his plans for schools after Freedom Day.

Bubbles and isolation at home have been causing a lot of disruption. They will be abolished for test and trace:

Isolation will be mandated only when there are positive test results. Staggered starting times for schools will go, and there will be no restrictions on universities:

I watched the debates with interest.

My original suspicion from last year still holds true; only the Left want restrictions to continue.

More on that soon.

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