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In case anyone missed them, here are Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 of this series about the British public’s suspicion over the continuing coronavirus lockdown.

The June protests vexed Britons who were trying to do the right thing: staying at home and social distancing when outdoors.

All of a sudden, that flew out the window. Protesters had pride of place, yet, the rest of us still had to obey the social distancing guidelines.

That rankled, especially as we had been told we were selfish because we wanted to hug our loved ones who didn’t live with us. Think of grandparents and grandchildren.

What about people who just needed to get outdoors in the fresh air by themselves?

What about children who longed to see their friends? This former barrister and co-editor of Conservative Woman nails it:

And what about the people who freaked out over a very limited reopening of schools on Monday, June 1?

What about the average law-abiding person?

Yes, those people are ‘the problem’. We are made to feel guilty through no fault of our own.

The frustrating hypocrisy of it all:

Then we had Piers Morgan taking issue with Boris’s top adviser for trying to care for his little boy and with Labour MP Barry Gardiner for attending the demonstrations. Yet, Piers applauded his own son for taking part in the protests:

But I digress.

There was no social distancing during the protests. In fact, some police officers in London were assaulted.

However, even though Health Secretary Matt Hancock advised that the rules be kept in place over the weekend of June 6 and 7:

… the lack of social distancing was acceptable:

It was for a cause.

Health ‘experts’ said so — 1,200 of them, in fact:

Tucker Carlson had an excellent editorial on this on Friday, June 5. Anyone complaining about social distancing and protests is ‘the problem’, not the protesters and rioters. Well worth a watch. You could not make this up:

But what about the people told to leave London parks because they were sunbathing by themselves? What about Piers Corbyn who was arrested twice for advocating against lockdown? Where were the Metropolitan Police during the protests? On hand, but either taking a knee or standing by doing nothing:

Boris didn’t do anything, either. We have a Home Secretary. He could have got in touch with her.

This is what he issued on Saturday, June 6, the day of yet another protest in London over an American who died on home soil in Minneapolis, Minnesota:

‘The evils of fascism’. Don’t make me laugh, Prime Minister.

Things were no better in Northern Ireland …

… or Scotland, where thousands were expected to attend a protest on Glasgow Green:

The Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, was a bit slow on the riots. Didn’t he know that American cities were being destroyed and shops across the country looted? President Trump never stopped peaceful assembly:

Anyway, there is some good news in all of this. More people in the public eye have noticed that continuing lockdown in the UK is a bad idea:

Unfortunately, a number of ‘senior figures’ from the NHS do not see it that way, primarily because of the close proximity of protesters in early June. That is not the fault of the British public and is likely to make them even angrier. They were not among the protesters. They are eager to get back to work.

In fact, said ‘senior figures’ will probably make the British public all the more suspicious about the protests. Were they timed to prevent lifting of lockdown? We’ll never know.

In any event, this concludes this series with a few key points to keep in mind:

It’s going to be a long, hot, tense summer here in the UK.

Before reading this, here are Parts 1, 2 and 3 of a series on coronavirus and lockdown.

It seems that the British silent majority were largely fine with obeying the rules that Boris Johnson’s government set until the end of May.

By then, they began asking questions about the duration.

During the first two months of lockdown, they understood that the reasons were not to put too much pressure on the NHS.

However, as Boris and his ministers are taking only ‘baby steps’ (Boris’s words) to release us, many wonder what the real plan is.

Rightly or wrongly, suspicion is rife:

There is also the question about the NHS and the need for treatment outside of COVID-19.

Those of us who watch the daily coronavirus briefings from the government can’t help but notice the messaging, especially from Health Secretary Matt Hancock:

I missed this little titbit from the coronavirus briefing on Friday, June 5. Hancock said, ‘As the NHS reopens’. Hmm:

Yet, Britons are still missing out on non-coronavirus NHS treatments that are urgent:

I couldn’t agree more with this next observation from Prof Karol Sikora:

Then we have the unknown consequences of Big Data intrusions into our lives:

This is now climbing up the chain to stain Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the champion of his soi-disant ‘Government of the People’:

The goalposts have clearly shifted since Boris’s stonking victory in December 2019:

Lockdown has now gone on too long:

Despite what the government and scientists say on the weekday coronavirus briefings, other statistics find their way through the established narrative:

Yet, part of the blame also lies with the proportion of the British public who are afraid of re-engaging with society the way they did before lockdown:

Those who are afraid can stay at home. Let the rest of us get back to real life.

This London Assembly member from the Brexit Party is spot on. Lockdown must end:

Social distancing will end up being a killer, too:

One hopes it doesn’t come to this:

One wonders whether there is such a thing as conservatism any more:

Or is the WHO driving this? They must think we are stupid. Perhaps we are:

We will never be in a risk-free, virus-free world.

Ending on Boris, for now, this is something I missed. Then again, I don’t listen to BBC Radio 4. Even if I had, I would have thought that Boris’s father Stanley was voicing his own views, not his son’s:

Boris is still better than his Labour counterparts — Jeremy Corbyn (then) and Keir Starmer (now).

However, his polling will take a dive unless he restores what he called the People’s Government.

More tomorrow: coronavirus and the June riots.

See Parts 1 and 2 of this series before reading more about Britain’s silent majority who are angry about lockdown.

At present, here we are, unable to shop, get our hair cut and must still practice two-metre social distancing. Masks are optional except on public transport:

Whether we are old or young, we are treated like dirt:

And what if this coronavirus were dirt, rather than a virus?

If that is true — and I’m not saying it is — what then?

It couldn’t be, could it? After all, the First Minister of Northern Ireland, the DUP’s Arlene Foster, has briefed the Queen on COVID-19:

But what about all the deaths in care homes and the lives lost?

What about people’s businesses going to ground?

Thank goodness for the government’s generous furlough, but …

And what about travel?

This is going to be dire:

No more on board delicious dining for you:

What if you cannot reasonably travel with a face covering?

What about everything else in life?

Who wants to live like that?

This is turning the apolitical into political activists:

Is this ever going to end?

If so, how?

Perhaps it is a giant reset.

After all, we are told this is (shudder) the ‘new normal’:

The ‘new normal’ could be green:

Didn’t we all enjoy the bluer skies on those sunny May days? We could keep them. ‘Fewer holidays for you’, the government could say:

One does have to wonder about government advisors from the public sector:

These people do not encounter the everyday man or woman. They live in their own scientific, misanthropic bubble.

They do not care what happens to us. After all, they have a guaranteed salaries and gold-plated pensions.

To be continued next week.

See Part 1 in this series about the anger in Britain over lockdown.

One or two tweets below might have salty language. The rest do not.

There is much anger by a proportion of the population at the government:

MPs, except for one, are largely silent on the subject. Luckily, John Redwood has been an MP for decades. He might be our only hope:

Most are like Conservative MP Nadine Dorries, however. She was one of the first MPs to get coronavirus. Her aged mother, who also had it, helped her recover. I was sorry to see her tweet this:

Yesterday, I left off on masks. On Thursday, June 4, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said they would be mandatory on all public transport in England. Health Secretary Matt Hancock repeated the order the following day:

Someone in the know saw this coming in April (never mind the reply):

This is so irrational. Earlier this year, the WHO advised against it:

Exactly.

I’m looking forward to the first lawsuit when someone is unable to breathe on public transport:

The above advice applies to England.

Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland are on their own track.

However, Scotland is no better:

This is what they are doing in Singapore. Simon Dolan, incidentally, is suing the British government over lockdown. Good man:

It seems masks are only the beginning. In the UK, we haven’t fully got off the ground with the track-and-trace app.

More from Simon Dolan about Singapore:

Track-and-trace is also getting up people’s noses:

Then there’s the R rate that SAGE and Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty discuss daily on the coronavirus briefings:

But that’s nothing compared to the wacky modelling from Imperial College’s Prof Neil Ferguson which brought about lockdown:

Yet, at least one London hospital is ignoring masks and social distancing:

Shouldn’t only the vulnerable be sheltered?

Picking up on the railway platform, here’s the latest on international transport …

… and the latest on public conveniences:

Why doesn’t any of this make sense?

Similar madness holds true for local buses:

Meanwhile, unlike protestors around the world complaining during coronavirus about the death of an American ex-convict thousands of miles away, when you’re Piers Corbyn (pictured with the policewoman in a mask), an eccentric weather forecaster as well as the brother of the last Labour leader, and say that climate change is caused by the sun’s activity and you’re protesting lockdown with like-minded people, you can be arrested twice at Hyde Park in London:

The sheer hypocrisy of it all is mind boggling.

More tomorrow.

As we continue coronavirus lockdown in June 2020, Britain’s silent majority is becoming increasingly angry.

Fortunately, they are venting online rather than mobbing in the streets.

Below is a lengthy selection of tweets about coronavirus, lockdown, the riots and more.

One or two have salty language but most do not.

This was the state of play on Wednesday, June 3:

This lady comforted a young woman who, understandably, doesn’t know what to make of it all:

I fully agree with this perspective:

The protests spelled the end of social distancing for many of us:

We still obey it, largely out of consideration for our neighbours — and fear of a fine or worse:

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said we might be welcoming up to 3 million Hong Kong refugees soon:

It’s a great gesture but, first, something must be done about the boat people being escorted to our shores from France by our own Border Patrol:

On Thursday, June 4, Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg took a question from an MP who asked when hairdressers would reopen:

On Friday, June 5, Ipsos MORI published a poll showing that although we were pretty angry about Boris and the government’s handling of the pandemic, we still preferred him to the Labour’s new leader Keir Starmer:

The Global Vaccine Summit was held the day before, albeit virtually:

This is what concerns me about Boris now. Had you told me this at the beginning of the year, I would have said, ‘Never!’ Yet, here we are. He’s still better than Labour, though:

That day, the silent majority became restive.

We were deeply unhappy with London’s Metropolitan Police’s response to the riots:

We were angry when Health Secretary Matt Hancock told us in that afternoon’s coronavirus briefing we would have to wear masks or some type of face covering on public transport:

To be continued tomorrow.

On May 29, I wrote about the end of the successful ‘hybrid’ model the UK’s House of Commons used for several weeks during the coronavirus crisis.

The Commons allowed both in-person and remote participation. A few votes were even accomplished during that time, including remotely.

When the Commons reconvened on Tuesday, June 2, an amendment was proposed to resume the hybrid model. It is currently difficult for Northern Ireland’s and Scotland’s MPs to get to Westminster to work. With flight and other travel restrictions during the coronavirus setback, journeys can take up to 18 hours, one way.

Other MPs — including a few Conservatives — have absent themselves, as they are self-isolating, either for themselves or immediate family members.

The amendment failed.

A subsequent division — vote — took place on whether the Leader of the House, Jacob Rees-Mogg, should be allowed to determine the way Parliament works during the remainder of lockdown. That vote passed.

Therefore, MPs are expected to be in situ in the Palace of Westminster.

Both divisions made for compelling television viewing on BBC Parliament.

Despite the Speaker of the House, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, making clear what MPs were expected to do, many of them were unable to follow simple instructions. A schoolchild could have done better.

Apparently, the Speaker issued the instructions in writing before MPs reconvened. Then, before the first division, he announced that there would be two voting stations in front of the clerks: Aye and No. MPs were to announce their name at those voting stations, which were right in front of him, and their voting intention. They were allowed to voice votes for absent MPs in the same way.

Many BBC Parliament viewers were aghast at how many MPs, regardless of party affiliation, could not follow these simple instructions:

Guido Fawkes has the video in full. You could not make this up:

Not all 650 MPs were there to vote: over 400 were.

In order to abide by social distancing rules of two metres, they had to begin queueing across the street then progress to Westminster Hall, which is adjacent and connected to the Palace of Westminster, and, finally, to the Commons chamber.

The Telegraph has a photo of them queueing in Westminster Hall. They then had to be outdoors for a while. Fortunately, the weather in London was perfect that day.

Political sketchwriter Michael Deacon described the process, which MPs dubbed the Mogg Conga (emphases mine):

The queue to vote was almost a mile long. It snaked halfway round the parliamentary estate. Beginning inside Portcullis House, it tumbled down an escalator, spilled out into a courtyard, then ran up on to the New Palace Yard green – at which point, the line disintegrated into a mad squiggle, with bemused and/or irked MPs chatting in not at all socially distanced groups, and police officers trying helplessly to shepherd them in the right direction.

MPs did not appreciate having to queue for so long. Yet, that is what the rest of us have to do if we want to shop at the supermarket, DIY shops and garden centres. For thee, but not for me:

As the sun blazed down on exposed necks and scalps, consternation reigned. “Ridiculous!” harrumphed MPs.

I’m glad they could experience what their constituents do every day: queue and wait — for ages.

Once they reached the chamber, many stopped in their tracks. Why? The Speaker had to urge them on:

a despairing Speaker was gesticulating frantically and bawling, “Come on! COME ON! Let’s keep it moving!”, as if coaching a hapless primary school football team.

As the above video shows, that was only the beginning:

All each MP had to do was pass down either the right-hand side of the central table (if voting No), or the left-hand side (if voting Aye). They then had to pause, say their name, and add either “Aye” or “No”. But even this was a mess. Numerous MPs forgot to say their name; others remembered their name, but forgot to say Aye or No; and some forgot to say anything at all, and had to be called back by a clerk.

From start to finish, this festival of absurdity lasted 45 minutes – and that was just for the first division. Another division was due straight afterwards. So they had to go back and do it all again. This time, Stephen Crabb (Con, Preseli Pembrokeshire) accidentally voted Aye on the No side – and then attempted to correct himself by voting No on the Aye side.

Even our brainy Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, couldn’t manage it.

They will have to vote in this way until the day when social distancing stops:

The most farcical thing of all, though, was that – on the order of the Tory whipsa majority of MPs actually voted to keep this hilarious new system. So now they’ll have to do it all the time.

I wonder if this will hasten the end of social distancing. It could well do. Imagine standing outdoors in pouring rain.

Rees-Mogg said that a ‘pairing’ (proxy) vote system would be in place for those who cannot attend in person. It still doesn’t seem right, although I can understand that the hybrid system did not allow for actual debates. Instead, MPs made statements about proposed legislation.

The New Statesman interviewed four MPs who are having difficulty attending Parliament.

Robert Halfon (Conservative, Harlow) explained his situation and his disappointment that Rees-Mogg, who has a home in Belgravia, within walking distance of Parliament, couldn’t appreciate it:

Robert Halfon has a disability and is one of several MPs who have been shielding, on government advice, during the pandemic. He is considering travelling into parliament to vote in person in favour of an amendment to the legislation on parliament’s return, which would allow online voting to continue. 

It would be taking on a big risk, and goes against the advice of his own government — and party — on shielding. But it’s the only way he will have a say in the matter of his own disenfranchisement, and, by extension, the disenfranchisement of his constituents. 

“I’ve described it as my ‘democratic hood’ being snipped away,” he says. “I’m in essence a parliamentary eunuch. If I can’t vote, I don’t have a choice to vote, I’m a parliamentary eunuch.

“It’s wrong to have a vote on hybrid voting, and yet not allow MPs to have the vote online. At the very least, this vote should have been online to make it fair.”

He continues: “I’m fascinated by a virtual parliament, by the technology, but that is another argument for another day. I’m very happy to return to the traditions that they want so much, if, temporarily, we can get the vote and not be disenfranchised.

“I’ve discussed it with Jacob Rees-Mogg, I’ve discussed it with the chief whip, and I’ve discussed it with my whip.” The response? “Just parliament should be back, it’s got to go back to normal, and to vote in parliament you’ve got to be there.” 

I don’t think he [Rees-Mogg] understands why I feel so strongly about it. I want to do my duty, I want to have the choice whether to vote. I may not vote in everything, but I want to have the choice. Because I’ll then have to explain to people why. Why do I have to go round explaining to residents why I’m not voting, when they look at my voting record? 

There’s no understanding when people like me have a disability. I try to be as independent as possible and not be a victim and not complain and moan. I just want to do my job.”

The other MPs interviewed also have medical issues or are caring for those in their households.

On Thursday, June 4, Tuesday’s vote came up during the Business session, which Rees-Mogg presides over as Leader.

Rees-Mogg defended the vote queue …

… making a good point:

A Liberal Democrat MP, Alistair Carmichael, responded with this:

Carmichael applied for an emergency debate on the matter, which was held Monday, June 8:

The arrangements became even more contentious when it looked as if Business Minister Alok Sharma, who had a difficult time at the despatch box last Wednesday, was suspected of having contracted coronavirus. His test turned out to be negative, fortunately, and he was back at work the following week, presiding over the daily coronavirus briefing today (June 9):

Pairing and proxy voting came up in Thursday’s discussion, too. The arrangements are secret:

Conservative MP Gary Streeter was paired with a Labour MP:

I agree with him on abandoning the ability to vote remotely so soon. The virus is still active. Furthermore, technical staff put in days of work in order to create a viable system — a first in the Palace of Westminster:

Liberal Democrat MP Jamie Stone said there was no voting provision for carers who could not be present:

He is correct:

This means:

What a mess.

On Friday, June 5, the Speaker of the House sent a lengthy letter on future participation for those who cannot make it to the chamber in person. (Also see Parly’s Twitter thread.) Those MPs had to let him know by the end of the day whether they wished to be at home. They can participate virtually in some proceedings but not debates. During the time they have applied to participate virtually, they cannot then come to the chamber in person.

On Monday, June 8, Alistair Carmichael presented his arguments in introducing his emergency debate on the matter. It was a lively, sometimes spiky, discussion.

I agree with MPs who want a proxy vote. As they explained, it’s not just for them, it’s to represent their constituents — voters.

I agree with Jacob Rees-Mogg in saying that those absent from the chamber cannot participate in certain debates, e.g. on legislation. It would be impractical, because of the nature of ‘interventions’ — interrupting an MP to present an additional or opposing argument.

It looks as if Carmichael might have won this argument:

Rees-Mogg is likely to extend proxy voting:

Oddly, on June 8, the House of Lords, considered to be fusty and musty, moved to a hybrid system, including future online voting.

Throughout the coronavirus crisis, one name has popped up several times, that of Prof Michael Levitt, biophysicist and professor of structural biology at Stanford University in California.

In 2013, Prof Levitt was a joint winner of a Nobel Prize in Chemistry, along with Martin Karplus and Arieh Warshel, for ‘the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems’.

Levitt, 73, was born in Pretoria, South Africa, and is currently a citizen of the United Kingdom, Israel and the United States.

He holds degrees from King’s College London and the University of Cambridge.

He has had a stellar career, receiving several distinguished scientific awards and scientific advisory board appointments in addition to his university professorships over the years.

He has had much to say about coronavirus.

On Monday, March 23, 2020, he gave an interview to the Los Angeles Times, with a prediction: ‘Coronavirus outbreak may be over sooner than you think’.

The LAT said that he had been adopting a measured approach throughout the pandemic since January, refuting the wild and inaccurate overestimates from the likes of Prof Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London (emphases mine):

Michael Levitt, a Nobel laureate and Stanford biophysicist, began analyzing the number of COVID-19 cases worldwide in January and correctly calculated that China would get through the worst of its coronavirus outbreak long before many health experts had predicted.

Now he foresees a similar outcome in the United States and the rest of the world.

While many epidemiologists are warning of months, or even years, of massive social disruption and millions of deaths, Levitt says the data simply don’t support such a dire scenario — especially in areas where reasonable social distancing measures are in place.

“What we need is to control the panic,” he said. In the grand scheme, “we’re going to be fine.”

This is what he discovered about China’s experience of the pandemic:

On Jan. 31, the country had 46 new deaths due to the novel coronavirus, compared with 42 new deaths the day before.

Although the number of daily deaths had increased, the rate of that increase had begun to ease off. In his view, the fact that new cases were being identified at a slower rate was more telling than the number of new cases itself. It was an early sign that the trajectory of the outbreak had shifted.

Think of the outbreak as a car racing down an open highway, he said. Although the car is still gaining speed, it’s not accelerating as rapidly as before.

“This suggests that the rate of increase in the number of deaths will slow down even more over the next week,” Levitt wrote in a report he sent to friends Feb. 1 that was widely shared on Chinese social media. And soon, he predicted, the number of deaths would be decreasing every day.

Three weeks later, Levitt told the China Daily News that the virus’ rate of growth had peaked. He predicted that the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in China would end up around 80,000, with about 3,250 deaths.

This forecast turned out to be remarkably accurate: As of March 16, China had counted a total of 80,298 cases and 3,245 deaths — in a nation of nearly 1.4 billion people where roughly 10 million die every year. The number of newly diagnosed patients has dropped to around 25 a day, with no cases of community spread reported since Wednesday.

At that point, he moved on from China:

He analyzed data from 78 countries that reported more than 50 new cases of COVID-19 every day and sees “signs of recovery” in many of them. He’s not focusing on the total number of cases in a country, but on the number of new cases identified every day — and, especially, on the change in that number from one day to the next.

“Numbers are still noisy, but there are clear signs of slowed growth.”

On Tuesday, March 24, The Independent picked up on the article and had found another interview he had done for an Israeli financial newsletter on coronavirus modelling, in which he stated that he disagreed with the exponential growth formulae used in predictions, e.g. Ferguson’s, although he mentioned no names:

In an interview with Calcalist, an Israeli financial newsletter, Mr Levitt explained why he didn’t agree with models of exponential growth that many organisations were using as the basis of their predictions.

“In exponential growth models, you assume that new people can be infected every day, because you keep meeting new people. But, if you consider your own social circle, you basically meet the same people every day,” he said. “You can meet new people on public transportation, for example; but even on the bus, after sometime most passengers will either be infected or immune.”

He also thought that social distancing was a good idea:

Mr Levitt said that social distancing measures have been helpful in reducing the virus’ ability to spread rapidly.

At this point, he was studying Italy’s coronavirus numbers:

He suggested that the higher percentage of elderly people in Italy paired with the country’s vibrant social culture resulted in the explosion of cases in that country.

“Furthermore, Italian culture is very warm and Italians have a very rich social life. For these reasons, it is important to keep people apart and prevent sick people from coming into contact with healthy people,” he said.

He was rightly concerned with overloading health systems, including that of the United States:

“Currently, I am most worried about the US. It must isolate as many people as possible to buy time for preparations. Otherwise, it can end up in a situation where 20,000 infected people will descend on the nearest hospital at the same time and the healthcare system will collapse,” he said.

However, while he recommended a brief lockdown as a stop-gap measure to flatten the sombrero, as it were, he also believed that the nations’ populations were developing a natural, or herd, immunity to coronavirus:

Mr Levitt said that while isolating was an important step to fighting viral spread, he also believes a certain segment of the population may be naturally immune to the disease.

“We know China was under almost complete quarantine, people only left home to do crucial shopping and avoided contact with others. In Wuhan, which had the highest number of infection cases in the Hubei province, everyone had a chance of getting infected, but only 3 percent caught it,” he said. “Even on the Diamond Princess [the quarantined cruise ship] the infection rate did not top 20 percent.”

He said those numbers suggest that some people simply are immune or especially resistant to the virus.

It’s quite possible that some of us can build up immunity to COVID-19, because the common cold is a type of coronavirus. I’m not equating the two by any means, just highlighting that the principle could well be the same. We might not need an expensive drug — or a vaccine with who knows what in it.

On May 2, Prof Levitt gave an interview to Britain’s online magazine UnHerd, which is an excellent site. Freddie Sayers, the site’s executive editor, conducted the interview, which is just under 35 minutes long, available below and at the accompanying article:

The aforementioned article explains Levitt’s nuanced view of coronavirus. Lockdowns should be only short-term, or focussed on vulnerable groups, such as the elderly. Social distancing is important, but, even then, after a while people will ignore it. Therefore, some prior immunity or asymptomatic cases must factor in somewhere. Neil Ferguson’s Imperial College numbers are misguided, because this is not about exponential growth.

An excerpt from the article follows:

His observation is a simple one: that in outbreak after outbreak of this disease, a similar mathematical pattern is observable regardless of government interventions. After around a two week exponential growth of cases (and, subsequently, deaths) some kind of break kicks in, and growth starts slowing down. The curve quickly becomes “sub-exponential”.

This may seem like a technical distinction, but its implications are profound. The ‘unmitigated’ scenarios modelled by (among others) Imperial College, and which tilted governments across the world into drastic action, relied on a presumption of continued exponential growth — that with a consistent R number of significantly above 1 and a consistent death rate, very quickly the majority of the population would be infected and huge numbers of deaths would be recorded. But Professor Levitt’s point is that that hasn’t actually happened anywhere, even in countries that have been relatively lax in their responses.

He takes specific issue with the Neil Ferguson paper. “In a footnote to a table it said, assuming exponential growth of 15% for six days. Now I had looked at China and had never seen exponential growth that wasn’t decaying rapidly.”

The explanation for this flattening that we are used to is that social distancing and lockdowns have slowed the curve, but he is unconvinced. As he put it to me, in the subsequent examples to China of South Korea, Iran and Italy, “the beginning of the epidemics showed a slowing down and it was very hard for me to believe that those three countries could practise social distancing as well as China.” He believes that both some degree of prior immunity and large numbers of asymptomatic cases are important factors.

He also observes that the total number of deaths we are seeing, in places as diverse as New York City, parts of England, parts of France and Northern Italy, all seem to level out at a very similar fraction of the total population. “Are they all practising equally good social distancing? I don’t think so.” He disagrees with Sir David Spiegelhalter’s calculations that the totem is around one additional year of excess deaths, while (by adjusting to match the effects seen on the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship) he calculates that it is more like one month of excess death that is need before the virus peters out.

More generally, he complains that epidemiologists only seem to be called wrong if they underestimate deaths, and so there is an intrinsic bias towards caution. “They see their role as scaring people into doing something, and I understand that… but in my work, if I say a number is too small and I’m wrong, or too big and I’m wrong, both of those errors are the same.

He believes the much-discussed R0 is a faulty number, as it is meaningless without the time infectious alongside.

On May 23, the Telegraph had an article about Levitt: ‘Lockdown saved no lives and may have cost them, Nobel Prize winner believes’.

Levitt had been in touch with Ferguson to tell him his numbers were (once again, as the British know) woefully out of whack:

Michael Levitt, a Stanford University professor who correctly predicted the initial trajectory of the pandemic, sent messages to Professor Neil Ferguson in March telling the influential government advisor he had over-estimated the potential death toll by “10 or 12 times”.

The Imperial College professor’s modelling, a major factor in the Government’s apparent abandoning of a so-called herd-immunity policy, was part of an unnecessary “panic virus” which spread among global political leaders, Prof Levitt now tells the Telegraph.

Levitt told the Telegraph that he was no fan of a prolonged lockdown:

“I think lockdown saved no lives,” said the scientist, who added that the Government should have encouraged Britons to wear masks and adhere to other forms of social distancing.

“I think it may have cost lives. It will have saved a few road accident lives – things like that – but social damage – domestic abuse, divorces, alcoholism – has been extreme. And then you have those who were not treated for other conditions.”

Levitt nails it with his next observation. Politicians were terrified at the prospect of a high death toll if they did not implement lockdown:

“I think that the real virus was the panic virus,” Prof Levitt told the Telegraph. “For reasons that were not clear to me, I think the leaders panicked and the people panicked and I think there was a huge lack of discussion.”

Levitt believes that COVID-19 has a natural life cycle. Lockdown did little. The virus burned out by itself:

“In Europe, I don’t think that anything actually stopped the virus other than some kind of burnout,” he added. “There’s a huge number of people who are asymptomatic so I would seriously imagine that by the time lockdown was finally introduced in the UK the virus was already widely spread. They could have just stayed open like Sweden by that stage and nothing would have happened.”

Also:

“There is no doubt that you can stop an epidemic with lockdown but it’s a very blunt and very medieval weapon and the epidemic could have been stopped just as effectively with other sensible measures (such as masks and other forms of social distancing),” he added.

Levitt thinks that the UK will have total deaths around 50,000, which looks quite possible. He’s also drawn the ire of epidemiologists, yet his forecasts have been far more accurate than theirs:

“It turns out numbers are played out very consistently when you look at all the places that have been badly hit, particularly in Europe. The token number of deaths before things stop is about one month of natural deaths, which is something like one in a thousand.”

Based on his estimates, Britain was due to suffer around 50,000 deaths in total. “A lot of things went wrong but I think the main thing is that we just needed to think and discuss things a little bit,” he added. I was told on numerous occasions ‘you are not an epidemiologist, shut up’. I don’t really care. I was just looking at the numbers. I was looking at the cruise ship, looking at Wuhan. The same number held for these places.”

A few days before the Telegraph interview took place, an article comparing Levitt’s spot-on numbers with Prof Neil Ferguson’s off-piste ones appeared in The Critic: ‘We’re all in the big numbers now’.

As its author, Alistair Haimes, says, we are now in a place to begin studying UK coronavirus deaths and statistical curves.

This is how wrong, to be polite, Ferguson’s Imperial College numbers were:

Imperial College haven’t had a good war, and after their performance in other recent epidemics perhaps they will now pass their mantle onto another team.  Preferably one that can code to levels fit for publication, never mind policy: it is increasingly awkward to hear the Prime Minister quoting their forecast that, were it not for lockdown, the UK could have been looking at half a million deaths when, at the tail-end of the epidemic, there are only 320,000 deaths worldwide.

By contrast, we have Dr Levitt’s accurate predictions, but no one wanted to know because Levitt is not an epidemiologist!

In mid-March, Stanford’s Nobel laureate Michael Levitt (biophysicist and professor of structural biology) discussed the “natural experiment” of the Diamond Princess cruise ship, a virtually perfect sealed petri-dish disproportionately filled with the most susceptible age and health groups. Even here, despite the virus spreading uncontrolled onboard for at least two weeks, infection only reached 20% of passengers and crew (an “upper bound” to infection levels?); Levitt concluded that we must have high levels of innate immunity that can clear the virus. And using very simple mathematics (not “15,000 lines of uncommented code” like Neil Ferguson) he demonstrated that the virus’s spread had never been exponential but rather has been running out of steam from day one. Who listened?

The end result is a death toll that is no worse than a bad influenza year:

If we simply move covid-19 deaths from spring to winter, the death-toll and the extent of the epidemic is put in the context of recent bad (but not dramatic) influenza years.

We have had bad flu years in the UK, and within the past two decades, but we didn’t get hysterical about them:

Remember the killer flu of 2000, and the lockdown after the Millenium super-spreader events? Me neither. Covid-19 might not be “just flu”, but that’s because there’s no “just” about flu.

According to the article, Sweden’s no lockdown strategy was that of Britain’s SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) member and our Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance:

In Sweden, Professors Giesecke and Tegnell have managed the epidemic within Sweden’s healthcare capacity without suspending civil liberties or shutting down schools or society (Sir Patrick Vallance’s “Plan A”), with no greater death-toll than our own. The Free Swedes pointed out all along that lockdown would be much easier to get into than out of: no kidding, we’re in an eel-trap.

We have no idea if the UK government looked at models that contradicted Ferguson’s. Oxford University has more realistic models, but we paid attention to Ferguson’s numbers from Imperial College. They have never been right for other pandemics, so why would he have been right about this one?

One thing the article omits is the media narrative that drove us to lockdown. Britain was going along with the Swedish model of social distancing, but the 24/7 news channels — BBC and Sky — ramped up Project Fear by asking why we didn’t have a lockdown, too.

No doubt advisers put pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson, too, because everyone in that stratum of society, Boris included, will watch some BBC news every day. He probably already knew the narrative.

Hence, lockdown on the evening of Monday, March 23.

SAGE minutes actually state that the British public was so scared that they would comply:

SAGE minutes make it clear that the public was explicitly petrified in order to ensure compliance with lockdown.

Lockdown was a YUGE mistake socially and economically.

We are due to go through the worst economic disaster since the early 18th century. Years differ: 1704, 1706, 1708. Take your pick.

Questions must also be asked of Neil Ferguson. He ruined the farming industry with his past predictions. Now he’s ruined not only the British economy, but, perhaps, others where leaders looked at his unrealistic extrapolations. (The United States comes to mind.)

One could be forgiven for thinking that Ferguson has an agenda of some sort. It certainly looks that way.

Boris, his government ministers and his advisers now have to get us out of this mess, sooner rather than later.

Boris’s ‘baby steps’ won’t cut it.

On Monday, May 25, 2020, the WHO dropped its hydroxychloroquine trials as a possible treatment for coronavirus.

The drug is one of a selection of anti-malarials which have been used successfully, under the right protocols.

In Europe, Prof Didier Raoult is the champion of this type of treatment. He has successfully used a protocol involving Plaquenil and azithromycin on his patients in Marseille. Raoult is the director of the regional institute for research on infections, the IHU Méditerranée Infection.

The medical establishment worldwide is attempting to discredit the renegade physician. The latest is the Lancet, Britain’s renowned medical journal. The results of their studies with the drug prompted the WHO to halt their trials.

The BBC reports:

The Lancet study involved 96,000 coronavirus patients, nearly 15,000 of whom were given hydroxychloroquine – or a related form chloroquine – either alone or with an antibiotic.

The study found that the patients were more likely to die in hospital and develop heart rhythm complications than other Covid patients in a comparison group.

The death rates of the treated groups were: hydroxychloroquine 18%; chloroquine 16.4%; control group 9%. Those treated with hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine in combination with antibiotics had an even higher death rate.

The researchers warned that hydroxychloroquine should not be used outside of clinical trials.

President Trump is currently taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure. He receives it via prescription.

The WHO advises people not to self-medicate with these drugs.

Indeed, Prof Raoult uses them only on people who test positive for COVID-19. He also runs a battery of tests on potential patients before administering the tablets. Anti-malarials can worsen pre-existing heart conditions.

His and his team’s paper was published in May:

He was delighted to see that another study using the same two drugs was equally successful. Beneath it are the results of the less successful Lancet study, which used hydroxychloroquine and macrolide, instead of azithromycin:

He is aware that the medical establishment, including France’s two most recent health ministers, Agnès Buzyn and Olivier Véran, want him out of the picture:

That’s unfortunate, because I listen to RMC during the week and the callers from Marseille and the rest of the region of Provence-Alpes Maritimes-Côte d’Azur (PACA) consider him a hero.

However, RMC’s morning show hosts dismiss Raoult and hydroxychloroquine. Now I know why. One of the station’s main shareholders also is a major shareholder in Gilead, which is working on Remdesivir, a drug used to treat Ebola. So far, Remdesivir trials on COVID-19 have not been that successful but the marketing is good, and it would be a money maker:

Last Tuesday on RMC, the WHO/Lancet news was a topic for discussion on the mid-morning show. They took a poll of Raoult’s popularity. Three-quarters of their listeners voting during the show love the man. The poll was open for another day:

One of the show’s guests said that Didier Raoult was achieving success, not talking about hypotheticals. He found it strange that few of the other studies manage to reproduce his success:

A nurse from Marseille who used to work the the professor, who is a physician, said that the others are not following his protocol to the letter. She said that, if they were, they would get the same results.

Raoult points out in the next tweet that the other studies are not using the drugs on people who actually have the disease. Therefore, results will differ:

Back to RMC. One of the panellists compared Raoult to Trump: a renegade one loves or loathes. She said that, like Trump, Raoult is trending in popularity:

Needless to say, the conversation about Raoult got heated. The first panellist said he was annoyed that his GP wouldn’t prescribe him hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin. The show’s hosts, on either side of him, thought the GP was right not to do so:

A third panellist said that Raoult is resisting all the discrediting of his work — ‘He’s extremely courageous’:

Criticised though Raoult might be, America’s National Institutes of Health (NIH) will be doing a study on hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin:

Although Raoult gives Dr Anthony Fauci the credit, I think it actually belongs to President Trump.

——————————————————————————

MAJOR UPDATE — JUNE 4: The Guardian has investigated the Lancet paper and reports that it had to be withdrawn. The WHO is now resuming its hydroxychoroquine trials.

This never should have happened to a respected medical journal.

Emphases mine below:

The Lancet paper that halted global trials of hydroxychloroquine for Covid-19 because of fears of increased deaths has been retracted after a Guardian investigation found inconsistencies in the data.

The lead author, Prof Mandeep Mehra, from the Brigham and Women’s hospital in Boston, Massachusetts decided to ask the Lancet for the retraction because he could no longer vouch for the data’s accuracy.

The journal’s editor, Richard Horton, said he was appalled by developments. “This is a shocking example of research misconduct in the middle of a global health emergency,” he told the Guardian.

A Guardian investigation had revealed errors in the data that was provided for the research by US company Surgisphere. These were later explained by the company as some patients being wrongly allocated to Australia instead of Asia. But more anomalies were then picked up. A further Guardian investigation found that there were serious questions to be asked about the company itself.

An independent audit company was asked to examine a database provided by Surgisphere to ensure it had the data from more than 96,000 Covid-19 patients in 671 hospitals worldwide, that it was obtained properly and was accurate.

Surgisphere’s CEO, Sapan Desai, had said he would cooperate with the independent audit, but it is understood he refused to give the investigators access to all the data they asked for.

In a statement on Thursday, Mehra said: “Our independent peer reviewers informed us that Surgisphere would not transfer the full dataset, client contracts, and the full ISO audit report to their servers for analysis as such transfer would violate client agreements and confidentiality requirements. As such, our reviewers were not able to conduct an independent and private peer review and therefore notified us of their withdrawal from the peer-review process”…

The World Health Organization and several countries suspended randomised controlled trials that were set up to find an answer. Those trials have now been restarted. Many scientists were angry that they had been stopped on the basis of a trial that was observational and not a “gold standard” RCT.

Mehra had commissioned an independent audit of the data after scientists questioned it …

The Guardian wrote about Surgisphere on June 3. This is shocking.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine:

The World Health Organization and a number of national governments have changed their Covid-19 policies and treatments on the basis of flawed data from a little-known US healthcare analytics company, also calling into question the integrity of key studies published in some of the world’s most prestigious medical journals.

A Guardian investigation can reveal the US-based company Surgisphere, whose handful of employees appear to include a science fiction writer and an adult-content model, has provided data for multiple studies on Covid-19 co-authored by its chief executive, but has so far failed to adequately explain its data or methodology

The Guardian’s investigation has found:

    • A search of publicly available material suggests several of Surgisphere’s employees have little or no data or scientific background. An employee listed as a science editor appears to be a science fiction author and fantasy artist. Another employee listed as a marketing executive is an adult model and events hostess.
    • The company’s LinkedIn page has fewer than 100 followers and last week listed just six employees. This was changed to three employees as of Wednesday.
    • While Surgisphere claims to run one of the largest and fastest hospital databases in the world, it has almost no online presence. Its Twitter handle has fewer than 170 followers, with no posts between October 2017 and March 2020.
    • Until Monday, the get in touch” link on Surgisphere’s homepage redirected to a WordPress template for a cryptocurrency website, raising questions about how hospitals could easily contact the company to join its database.
    • Desai has been named in three medical malpractice suits, unrelated to the Surgisphere database. In an interview with the Scientist, Desai previously described the allegations as “unfounded

You could not make this up.

Still, it’s a happy ending. Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine trials will resume, including at the WHO.

Many thanks to my reader formerdem, who alerted me to this welcome change of events in the comment section below.

Soon after the Houses of Parliament returned after Easter recess on April 22, 2020, both installed a ‘hybrid’ system allowing participation in the respective chambers (Commons or Lords) as well as online via videoconference.

The House of Lords was operating entirely remotely, as Lord Fowler led proceedings from his home in the Isle of Wight.

As most of the British public were still working from home, MPs and Lords took the decision to set a good example by doing so themselves.

I’m not sure what is happening with the Lords, but, on Wednesday, May 20, the Commons voted against renewing the ‘hybrid’ system on their return after Whitsun (Pentecost) recess on Tuesday, June 2.

The technical teams and associated staff from the Palace of Westminster did an excellent job of setting up both Houses with their hybrid systems of holding debates, which ended up being short speeches rather than exchanges of points of view.

Below are two photos of what the House of Commons looked like: sparsely populated, to say the least.

As Britain begins to return to work in stages after lockdown, the Leader of the House, Jacob Rees-Mogg, would also like more MPs in the chamber.

This did not go down well with MPs in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Scotland is still in lockdown, and transport to and from Northern Ireland is difficult during the coronavirus crisis.

Rees-Mogg said that arrangements would be made for MPs who still had to work from home. He did not give details but said that more information would be forthcoming during Whitsun recess.

Rees-Mogg brought up the unsatisfactory, yet necessary, nature of the hybrid system the preceding Wednesday, May 13. Hansard records what he said then in response to the Shadow Leader of the House, Valerie Vaz (Labour), excerpted below (emphases mine):

I want to answer what the right hon. Lady says about Parliament, because what she says is important and fundamental to us as a democracy. The Government’s advice is clear: work from home if you can. As you have made clear, Mr Speaker, many members of the House staff will be able to continue to work from home, even with the House of Commons operating in physical form. Indeed, very few additional Clerks will need to be present on the premises, Members’ staff will be able to continue to work from home, and the overwhelming majority of the House community will be able to continue to work from home—the exception being Members of Parliament themselves. Why is that? It is because the Government’s advice is that if you need to go to work, you must go to work.

We see in this Parliament—in this House today—the ineffectiveness of scrutiny in comparison to when the House is operating in the normal way. We have no flexibility of questions. The questions are all listed in advance, with no ability for people to bob, to come in and to join in the debate; no cross-cutting of debate; and no ability to advance arguments or take them forward. We simply have a series of prepared statements made one after another. That is not the House of Commons doing its proper duty and playing its proper role of scrutiny of the Government.

Then there is the other side of it: where are the Bill Committees? How are Bills progressing? What is happening to the legislative agenda that the Government were elected on in December? Or do we just ignore our constituents, ignore the voters and not get on with a proper democratic parliamentary system? The idea that our democratic system is not an essential one—is not the lifeblood of our nation and is not how the Government are held to account at a time of crisis—is one that is surprising. It is extraordinary that it should be held by Opposition Members; that they should not wish to be here, challenging the Government and holding them to account; and that they wish to hide behind a veneer of virtual Parliament, so that legislation is not progressed with. We have heard it from the Scottish shadow spokesman, when he says that a virtual Parliament is a second-rate Parliament. He wants us all to be second rate, whereas I want us all to be first rate—to get back to being a proper Parliament because democracy is essential. What we do is essential. Holding the Government to account is essential and delivering on manifesto promises is also essential, and that is what I hope we shall be able to do after we come back from the Whitsun recess, in line with what is happening in other parts of the country.

Aye, there lies the rub: delivering on manifesto promises. Can anyone say Brexit? Nearly everyone opposing a return to the Commons is a Remainer.

Social distancing will still be in place when MPs return, as Rees-Mogg said on May 13:

The Chamber is marked out for social distancing. We can get 50 people into this Chamber, which, it has to be said, is often as many as are here for an ordinary debate. It is only on high days and holidays and Prime Minister’s questions that the Chamber is bursting at the seams.

As you so rightly said in your statement, Mr Speaker, there is no change to the social distancing advice. There is no change to the advice to Members’ staff to continue to work from home. The numbers coming into this estate are a fraction of what they normally are, because we have no tours, we have no commercial banqueting and we do not have the thousands—sometimes, tens of thousands—of people who come in every day.

On Wednesday, May 20, this is what the House of Commons looked like during Prime Minister’s Questions. Boris Johnson is at the despatch box. Labour leader Keir Starmer is sitting opposite:

That meeting must have been contentious, because Karen Bradley, the Conservative MP who chairs the Procedure Committee, spoke remotely in/to the Commons on Wednesday afternoon:

She did not look happy. Nor did Valerie Vaz.

This is a fuller view of the Commons during coronavirus lockdown:

Guido Fawkes reported on the May 20 vote (emphases in the original):

MPs have just voted 350:258 in favour of abolishing the virtual parliament on the June 2nd. A majority of 92…

UPDATE: Some of Guido’s more pernickety proceduralists are taking umbrage, so he is happy to specify that whilst MPs did not directly vote in favour of abolishing the virtual parliament, that was the effect of how they voted.

This division was, in fact, a Labour amendment to a motion of the house to try and allow a vote on whether to keep the hybrid parliament. MPs rejected the vote meaning the Government will now be able to proceed as they wish without a vote. Thus the hybrid/virtual parliament fades into the history books…

At least for now, anyway.

Rees-Mogg also said that social distancing would be in place for voting (i.e. divisions):

Regardless of the outcome, hats off to all those who worked so hard and so quickly behind the scenes to get MPs — and Lords — connected to each other from their own homes. This was an historic first and, even with remote voting, worked well as a temporary measure.

After over two months — the evening of March 23, 2020, to be precise — Britain is gradually coming out of lockdown.

Since late March, very few of us have bothered with our personal appearance unless we’re on video conference calls every day.

Even MPs, part of the population on such calls, have let themselves go with hair and beard growth.

However, the time is coming when as many Britons as can will have to return to work. For many, now’s the time to clean up.

On Wednesday, May 20, the British brand, King of Shaves, recently trended on Twitter with #BringBackTheShave, which provided the nation with a chuckle or two.

Their 24-hour ad campaign, in association with the creative community One Minute Briefs, was a serious one, though, as the winning entrant received £250. Nothing to sneeze at in these difficult times:

These were my two favourites, both by creatives who work in the advertising industry:

I cannot speak of the King of Shaves product line personally, but they get rave reviews — and are 30% off to keyworkers and NHS staff:

They also have shave gel for ladies.

Well done!

Even better, their products are also made in Britain.

—————————————-

UPDATE:

There were two winners.

This entry:

And this one:

Well done to both!

May the clean-cut look survive well into the future!

It’s hygienic — and looks sharp (unless you’re in the Royal Navy or know how to properly maintain a beard).

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