The UK Health Security Agency concluded that evidence around NPIs is weak
On Wednesday, the UK Health Security Agency quietly released a review which found that the evidence base for the effectiveness of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) on Covid transmission was weak. These include such measures as lockdown, the ‘rule of 6’, test and isolation, face coverings, border restrictions, and more.
The review identified 151 studies conducted in the UK. Two-thirds of the evidence identified was based on modelling studies, and there were only two randomised control trials included. Studies focused on measures to identify or isolate infectious people or reduce the number of human contacts were the most numerous. Only nine studies focused on measures to protect the most vulnerable. ...
The organisation missed another opportunity at this week's UN summit
This week world leaders approved a new political declaration to combat future pandemics at the UN General Assembly in New York City.
In the aftermath of Covid, the document’s 49 theses range from lofty ideals of global health solidarity to a shopping list of investments and actions, all composed in the elegant language of technocratic governance.
Front and centre were calls to strengthen the authority and financing of the World Health Organization, including through a revision of the International Health Regulations (IHRs) and a new Pandemic Accord, or Treaty, by next year’s World Health Assembly in May 2024. ...
The health agency's position is a global outlier
Earlier this week a US CDC panel of advisers voted 13-1 to recommend new Covid vaccine boosters for all people over 6 months of age, contradicting European and WHO guidelines that focus on high-risk groups.
A marketing campaign accompanied the US decision. Dr. Ashish Jha, previous White House Covid coordinator, claimed that the new booster shot will help those jabbed stay in school or work, slow transmission to Grandma, and prevent long Covid, calling the decision “a no-brainer”. A press conference with senior Canadian public health authorities, socially distanced with masks, also promoted the new universal booster recommendation. ...
The organisation ignores uncomfortable truths about our pandemic response
A report last week from the world’s oldest scientific academy, the UK’s Royal Society, “unequivocally” found that lockdowns, masks, contact tracing apps, travel restrictions, and other non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) reduced Covid transmission.
But its shortcomings, as with the Lancet Commission report released last year and other high-profile work, reveal an unfortunate detachment from reality in our prestigious scientific institutions: better to exclude or minimise the uncomfortable outliers and data that question orthodoxy and sidestep the hard policy questions.
The result is more entrenchment of simple narratives and comfortable popular projections. Outlets as varied as the Guardian and the Daily Mail lapped up the findings because of the Society’s renown. Masks worked; lockdown slowed the spread; it was all worth it. No further questions. ...
Numerous experts are calling for a restoration of the new normal
This week a handful of American schools, businesses and healthcare facilities re-imposed mask mandates and other Covid safety policies. This provided an opportunity for lobby groups and our new Covid safety subculture to advocate for the return of the “new normal” media narrative: a “surging” virus is meeting a “complacent” population that will need to be “nudged” to do the “right thing”.
This included a small college in Atlanta with 400 students, elementary schools in Texas and Kentucky, an LA Hollywood film studio (responsible for The Hunger Games) and some Kaiser Permanente health facilities in California. Pro-mask mandate scientists and doctors, such as Independent SAGE member Trish Greenhalgh of the University of Oxford and former US surgeon general Jerome Adams took the opportunity to model “good” mask behaviour. ...
Lockdown 'experts' need to be held to account
This week more than 40 of the UK’s leading child right charities and experts issued a scathing indictment against the UK Covid inquiry’s lukewarm acknowledgement of the impact of lockdown on 14 million young Brits. Dan Paskins, director of UK Impact at Save the Children said:
The open letter called for the inquiry to listen to the experiences and voices of children, especially from disadvantaged backgrounds. But this neglect of young people, notably absent from the inquiry’s opening pageantry, is merely the symptom of a larger global Covid policy disease: the sacrifice of the young for the old, or reverse ageism. ...
The media is fuelling fear over an impending summer wave
Each season now comes with a new variant of Covid alarmism, fuelling media clickbait and ranging from the hyperbolic to the hypothetical.
According to the Guardian, the UK is “nearly flying blind” into a Covid wave this autumn. A summer spike is expected, by the estimation of the BBC. The New York Times tells us that “Covid didn’t take a summer vacation” and that it is “time for a refresher” on self-protection. Cases are up 55% in New York City, warns the New York Post, while the LA Times this week advocates a return to the wearing of masks.
Each new mutation (the latest is EG.5.1 or “Eris”) brings with it a fresh wave of media attention. We are reminded to maintain precautions indefinitely: boosters, disinfecting door knobs, N95 respirators and, lest we forget, paying attention to indoor airflow before deciding on a restaurant. ...
Baroness Hallett's hearing will make some stories more equal than others
The UK Covid inquiry has now begun its nationwide “listening” exercise, which will run alongside the formal hearings and expert testimonies over the next three years.
Every Story Matters aims to collect tens of thousands of personal stories from across the country “adding insight about the human impact of the pandemic on the UK population”. This is “integral to the inquiry and ensures that it is informed by people’s experiences”.
The listening project aims to fulfil chair Baroness Hallett’s promise that “those who have suffered will be at the heart of the inquiry.” But this collective exercise in public grief is likely to further entrench the inquiry’s mainstream pro-lockdown narrative by making some stories more equal than others. ...