COVID-19: a (sad) tale of 14 countries


In this article I’ll compare the history to date of the COVID-19 epidemic in fourteen European countries, including the UK. I chose the countries with an aim of making them representative of Western Europe as a whole. I excluded island countries other than the UK and Ireland; and I excluded very small countries such as San Marino, Andorra, Liechtenstein and Monaco. Here are the countries I picked, in alphabetical order:

Austria
Belgium
Denmark
France
Germany
Ireland
Italy
Luxembourg
Netherlands
Portugal
Spain
Sweden
Switzerland
UK

In hindsight, I might perhaps have added Norway as well; but fourteen should be enough.

The COVID data I used came from Our World in Data at https://ourworldindata.org/coronavirus-data, and runs up to October 31st. But many of the graphs I show will stop short of that date. For example, any graph which requires (centred) weekly averages in its calculation cannot go further than October 28th, because to calculate the centred weekly average for October 29th would require data for November 1st.

Stop Press!

In the last few days, the article I originally planned has been overtaken by political events, as posturing European governments indulge in a game of “COVID copycat” (https://news.sky.com/story/coronavirus-lockdown-returns-to-france-and-germany-heres-what-you-need-to-know-12117280). Ireland has been back in lockdown since about October 21st. The UK will, in effect, be going back into full lockdown from November 5th. Belgium and Germany, will be doing the same from the 2nd, and France is already there. The Netherlands is already in partial lockdown. Austria, Portugal, Italy and Spain, too, are locking down further; and Denmark has already done so, if relatively lightly. Switzerland already has “a range of new COVID measures” – which include making people wear masks outside! Even Sweden is now implementing local lockdowns. As far as I can tell, only Luxembourg has not yet followed the copycat trend; and even there, there is talk of a “lockdown lite.”

It’s particularly exasperating that the UK has decided to go the national lockdown route. A few weeks ago, they brought in a “tiered lockdown” system, in which individual areas could be put under restrictions appropriate to the situation in their particular area, while leaving people in less badly affected areas under far lighter restrictions. This seemed to me a very sensible way to go. After all, epidemic control is, by the nature of epidemics, a local matter. And it doesn’t make sense to confine people in Cornwall, say, to their homes because of a serious situation in Leeds, or even in Bristol. Moreover, slightly different rules in different areas would have created an opportunity to collect hard data on what works and what doesn’t.

Johnson and co could perfectly well have used the tiered system to implement full lockdowns in just those places that needed them. But instead of using common sense and adding a “tier four” to the new system, they have caved in to extremists like the SAGE committee, that seem to want to lock people down for the sake of locking people down. Now we are in danger of a situation, where even those in relatively unaffected parts of the country are likely to be forced into a period of lockdown every few months or even every few weeks. That may make the cases figures look better; but in terms of beating the virus, it’s a no-no. For, absent a vaccine, we are going to have to get to the herd immunity threshold. But to lock down people in areas where there are relatively few cases will mean it takes longer – perhaps, years longer – to get there, and beat the virus. Indeed, someone with a nasty agenda, looking to prolong the agony caused by the virus and to prevent the economy ever fully recovering, would find this strategy very attractive.

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Eighty-six sages


Eighty-six sages

By Neil Lock

This article is about SAGE. That is, the UK’s “Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies.” Its self-stated remit is that it: “provides scientific and technical advice to support government decision makers during emergencies.” And it has been front and centre in recent spats about COVID-19 [[1]].

The list of SAGE participants can be found at [[2]]. That list, dated 17th July, shows 86 members, of whom up to about 20 may be involved in any one meeting or topic.

SAGE recently released the minutes of one of its meetings from last month. This was an immediate response to Boris Johnson’s newly announced tiered COVID lockdown system. The Guardian [[3]] titled the release: “SAGE documents show how scientists felt sidelined by economic considerations.” The experts, they said, wanted a dramatic increase in restrictions across the country to check the alarming rise in infections. To include a “circuit-breaker” lockdown of a couple of weeks, and “closure of all bars, cafes, restaurants, indoor gyms and personal services such as hairdressers.”

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A Second Open Letter to my MP on COVID


I sent this to “my” MP, Jeremy Hunt, earlier today.

Dear Mr Hunt,

When I wrote to you about five weeks ago, the main subject of my letter was de-carbonization of transport. However, I also drew your attention to an article I had had published on the COVID lockdowns, and told you that I had found them to be “way over the top compared to what was actually necessary.”

I have very recently published another article on the subject of COVID – here: https://misesuk.org/2020/09/20/covid-19-is-the-virus-weakening/. The figures show that, over the course of the last three months or so, the lethality of the virus in the UK (as measured by number of deaths divided by number of new cases as at 14 days beforehand) has gone down by a factor of around 60. This means that the virus is now considerably less dangerous than, for example, ’flu. And so, all lockdown measures ought to be released as soon as possible.

And yet, there is now serious talk of a re-lockdown at national level! For “two weeks.” We know from last time round what that means; we were told it would be three weeks, and now it’s been six months. Moreover, it feels like we are locked down harder than at any previous stage. And they want to make it longer, and worse!

The people-haters, that want to lock down as hard as possible for as long as possible and don’t care a damn about how much pain they cause to people, seem to be winning inside your party and others. And the arbitrary and extreme fines they are demanding are a sign of a rapacious monster that has lost all control over itself. I remind you of Edmund Burke’s aphorism that “Bad laws are the worst sort of tyranny.” And yet, these aren’t even bad laws – they are simply decrees of a small cadre! That isn’t the rule of law. That isn’t England. Moreover, in a democracy, government is supposed to be on the side of the people. It must never do anything which causes harm to those people without full and rigorous justification, which will stand up to scrutiny by objectively minded people (including me).

A national re-lockdown, in my opinion, would result in a meltdown in the public mood. As to myself, I have already lost all respect for the parliament as a whole, and for the great majority of those in it. Such a move would turn my disrespect into contempt and hatred, or worse.

So, I ask you immediately to add your voice in parliament to those who say “No” to any new lockdowns, and to demand that the public be provided with full, objective justification of every one of the measures that are already in place. Moreover, I would ask you, please, to use your seniority and your relevant expertise to metaphorically box the ears of those that are doing these things to us.

Yours sincerely,

Neil Lock

COVID-19: Is the Virus Weakening?


COVID-19: Is the Virus Weakening?

By Neil Lock

 

This is another of my articles on the numbers relating to the COVID epidemic world-wide.  It follows on from the “Lock-downs or Cock-ups?” article, here: https://wattsupwiththat.com/2020/08/11/covid-19-lock-downs-or-cock-ups/. This time, I’ll focus on the question: what proportion of confirmed new cases, at each stage of the epidemic, are actually leading to deaths? That ratio ought to be a major factor in any rational consideration of when to release lockdowns (or not); because it hugely affects the load on health care systems. Avoiding health system overload, so we were assured at the beginning of the epidemic, was the only reason for going into lockdown – for three weeks. (Cough).

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An Open Letter to my MP about Climate Change and De-Carbonizing Transport


I have just sent an e-mail to my Member of Parliament (Jeremy Hunt) regarding the submission I made two weeks ago in response to the UK government’s consultation on “de-carbonizing transport”.

Here is the covering e-mail, which also draws his attention to a long, complex article I have written on lockdown actions taken against the COVID-19 virus, and how appropriate and effective they have been.

Dear Mr Hunt,

Please find attached, for your consideration as my MP, two documents on the subject of climate change and the UK government’s plans to “de-carbonize” transport. The first is a two-page letter, with a number of questions on these matters, whose relevance I very much hope you will appreciate. The second is a 56-page PDF, which I submitted two weeks ago as my response to the recent government “consultation” on these matters.

While writing, I would also like to take the opportunity to give you a link to an article I have recently written and published on the subject of lockdowns against the COVID-19 virus. The article is here: https://wattsupwiththat.com/2020/08/11/covid-19-lock-downs-or-cock-ups/.

This is, of course, an area in which as a former health secretary you have almost unrivalled expertise. My researches have led me towards the conclusion that the lockdowns, as implemented in the UK (and many other countries), have been way over the top compared to what was actually necessary. I realize you might personally disagree; but I am sure you will be aware that the longer all this stuff goes on, the less inclined ordinary people will be to give the government the benefit of the doubt.

Yours sincerely,

Neil Lock

And here is the two-page letter, with the questions:

<Address redacted>

Jeremy Hunt MP

(South West Surrey)

House of Commons

Westminster

London

SW1A 0AA

 

13 August 2020

 

Dear Mr Hunt

 

Climate Change and De-Carbonizing Transport

 

Twelve years ago, on July 14th, 2008, I wrote you a nine-page letter urging you find out the facts regarding climate change. And, having done so, to take the strongest possible stand against the UK’s Climate Change Bill. You never bothered even to acknowledge my letter, let alone reply to it. Even though I prompted you about it when you phoned me to solicit my vote the day before the 2010 election. I was, to say the least, disappointed in you.

Now, twelve years later, here we are again. But things have moved on, since you voted for that dreadful bill on that snowy night in October 2008.

Two weeks ago, I submitted a response to the government’s recent consultation on “de-carbonizing transport.” It is a 56-page PDF, and I include it in the attachments to my e-mail. I would ask you please, Mr Hunt, to read what I have to say, and to give full consideration to it. You are, after all, my one and only representative in a parliament, many of whose acts over the last year and more I consider to have gone well beyond the bounds of reasonable behaviour. By its actions the parliament has, as far as I am concerned, brought itself into disrepute. And as a result, I have now lost all respect for it.

I would like to know your views on some of the issues I raise in my document. But I won’t expect you to dig into any of the scientific detail. Your liberal-arts education, and your many years of experience with government bureaucracy, should be sufficient for you to be able to address my questions.

  1. Do you agree with the quote from Bertrand Russell, with which I begin my Preface?
  2. Would you agree that government exists to serve the people, not to rule over them against their interests?
  3. Do you agree with me when I say: “you should expect government always to be reasonable towards the people it governs?”
  4. Do you agree with me when I say that MPs: “ought always to support the interests of the people they represent against encroachment by other political interests. For example, MPs in rural areas ought to champion the car as the best means of transport for people in their areas, even when it is pooh-poohed and threatened by the big-city slickers.”
  5. Would you agree that government, and those whom it funds, should always behave with honesty, integrity and good faith towards the public?
  6. Would you agree that government must never make costly commitments on behalf of the governed without rigorous justification?
  7. Would you agree that, in a case such as the allegations that human emissions of carbon dioxide are leading to catastrophic climate change, the burden of proof should always be on the accusers to substantiate their case beyond reasonable doubt?
  8. Would you agree that the UK Interdepartmental Liaison Group on Risk Assessment’s 2002 re-formulation of the precautionary principle, which I link to from my document as reference [5], was dishonest and done in bad faith? Would you agree that it had the effect, in matters such as the “climate change” allegations, of negating the presumption of innocence, inverting the burden of proof, and requiring the accused to prove a negative?
  9. Do you think that the BBC likening allowing climate change skeptics to speak to “letting someone deny last week’s football scores” violated their own guidelines on impartiality?
  10. Would you agree that the UK government’s 2009 abandonment of the social cost approach to valuing carbon dioxide emissions when considering policies, which I link to from my document as reference [6], was dishonest and done in bad faith?
  11. Do you think that the UK government’s 2010 “Climategate” inquiries were entirely honest and done in good faith?
  12. Would you agree that Extinction Rebellion is an extremist organization, and should never have been allowed to influence UK government policy?
  13. Do you think that the Committee for Climate Change is an independent, impartial body?
  14. Do you agree with me that setting arbitrary collective targets and limits on what people may do, for example “carbon budgets,” is unjust and tyrannical?
  15. Do you think that the UK government’s plans for implementing “zero carbon,” their costs, and the consequences to the people affected by them, have been fully thought through?
  16. Would you agree that the arrogant tone of the “setting the challenge” document, in particular in its use of words and phrases like “interventions,” “behaviour change” and “accelerating modal shift,” is inappropriate to the way in which a democratic government ought to treat its people?
  17. Would you agree with me when I say: “The UK government must commission a thorough, independent, scrupulously honest, unbiased audit of its own conduct, and the conduct of those it funded, in environmental matters over the period since 1970?”
  18. And finally, if you had known in 2008 that the policies resulting from the climate change agenda would eventually have such large negative consequences for the standard and quality of living of your constituents, would you have voted for the climate change bill?

I have put my case, as fully and eloquently as I can, in my PDF document. I hope that you will feel able to take Bertrand Russell’s sage advice, and seek the facts of the matter – just as I asked you to, twelve years ago. When you have done so, I think you will find that most, if not all, of my concerns on this matter are justified. What you decide to do then will, of course, be up to you.

Yours sincerely

 

 

 

Neil Lock

P.S. I will publish this letter as “An Open Letter to my MP about Climate Change and De-Carbonizing Transport” on my own small blog http://www.honestcommonsense.co.uk/, and on another blog where I am an author. I will publish your reply on my own blog when I receive it.

Enclosure: “Response to Consultation on ‘De-Carbonizing Transport’ in the UK,” July 31st, 2020.

My response to the government consultation on “De-carbonizing Transport”


Last Friday, I sent in a just-in-time response to the UK government’s “consultation” on how to “de-carbonize transport.” Or, more simply put, to ban our cars – as quickly as they possibly can.

My response is a 56-page PDF. There’s a lot of detail in there, and some quite strong ideas. So I thought the best way would be simply to put it up on the Internet, and link to it. WordPress, though, had other ideas. It wouldn’t let me link to it, without actually embedding it. So, here it is:

Click to access respcon-200731.pdf

 

Bad laws are the worst sort of tyranny


This morning (July 24th, 2020) I went to my local Waitrose. There was no queue, but I was bawled out by the woman on the door for not wearing a face mask. At the time, I was not even aware of the idiot legislation just passed. I asked her if she wanted to stop me going in to the store. She demurred. I did my shopping in about 10 minutes. At the checkout, I was behind a lady who had obeyed the latest idiocy, but complained about it. The checkout operator, knowing me, said nothing about masks.

Now, are “face coverings” efficacious? Anything less than a military-grade mask doesn’t protect you against inhaling the virus. The argument for wearing a mask is that it protects others. But does it? When you take the mask off, where do the viruses go? Think about that.

And if the government really thought that masks were effective to stop the virus, why didn’t they mandate them back in March? Or, at least, April, by which time entrepreneurs would have had time to produce enough masks for the general public?

As Edmund Burke said, 250 years ago: Bad laws are the worst sort of tyranny.