breaking news from the world of ideas

by Freddie Sayers
Tuesday, 21
December 2021

What the non-decision on lockdown means

The political atmosphere has fundamentally shifted

Waves of surprise and relief flash across the internet. Family WhatsApp groups light up. Long-laid plans are kept, tentatively, in the diary. The Government says it will not – yet — make normal life for Britons illegal for a second winter in a row. The Prime Minister’s post-cabinet message yesterday didn’t exactly sound reassuring, with “nothing ruled out” and “the possibility of taking further action”, but still, it’s a stay of execution for which millions of people will feel grimly thankful.

This non-decision decision may not have been exactly good news — and there may well be new restrictions in the coming weeks — but it was significant in that it marked a change in the political atmosphere. The unopposed glide towards lockdowns at times of rising Covid cases has finally been interrupted. ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Saturday, 11
December 2021

Andrew Sullivan: I was right about Donald Trump

Freddie Sayers speaks to the columnist and commentator about the crisis in America

The images from the 6th January riots at the US Capitol will be with us for years — shocking, unnerving, and ultimately tragic for the five people who died. But was it “armed insurrection” or a failure of policing? How close did the President come to directly inciting violence? What is a wise way for Democrats to respond?

To help understand this significant moment, and what these final astonishing weeks of the Trump administration mean for the US and for the world, I spoke to writer and commentator Andrew Sullivan. He lives just a few blocks away from the Capitol and from the first moments of our interview you can see how traumatised he has been by the events of the past few years, culminating (so far) in the events of last week: ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Saturday, 27
November 2021

Why the change to masking rules will make people angry

Introducing arbitrary rules that won't be effective has a cost

A new variant has been identified that we don’t know a lot about. It seems to be significantly more transmissible than other variants; there is no evidence yet that it is any worse in terms of symptoms; and there is no evidence yet that it escapes existing vaccines, but scientists are more concerned that it might because of the large degree of mutations on the ‘protein spike.’ One connected cluster consisting of two people has been identified within the UK.

That, at the moment, is the sum total of information the Government has to respond to.

Most people, although they will be disappointed, will understand the temporary additional controls for people arriving from overseas and in particular from the affected countries in Southern Africa, while we discover more. They will also at least understand the logic of stringent requirements for people who come into direct contact with one of these so-called “Omicron” cases. ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Wednesday, 17
November 2021

Inside the Austrian lockdown

We visit Vienna to explore the world's first lockdown for the unvaccinated

We visit Vienna to explore the world’s first lockdown for the unvaccinated

by Freddie Sayers
Monday, 15
November 2021

Inside Austria’s lockdown for the unvaccinated

I've been speaking to people on the street to find out what they think


UPDATE: Don’t miss the full story and video report, now live HERE

I’m in Vienna on day one of the world’s first lockdown for only the unvaccinated.

At first glance it seems like an ordinary, if rather grey, November day — perhaps with slightly fewer people out and about than you might expect. Medical-grade masks are much in evidence, and there are queues outside all the testing centres (a negative test is an accepted alternative to vaccination).

But this is no ordinary day. As of midnight last night, around 30% of the adult population have been legally mandated to stay inside their homes. They are allowed to leave only to buy essential food, to travel to and from essential work and for physical exercise. Leisure of any kind is forbidden. In effect, this means that two million Austrians are currently under partial house arrest. ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Saturday, 9
October 2021

Why I trust Lateral Flow Tests

When I had Covid, they were remarkably accurate

The latest Covid conundrum is why so many people seem to be currently testing positive on their instant Lateral Flow Test and then test negative when they take their PCR. Tom Chivers unpacked the maths on these pages earlier this week, and Dr Oliver Johnson has confirmed in an excellent Twitter thread that the disparity between the testing methods seems to be widening recently.

I’ll leave the probability calculations to superior brains, but I wanted to throw in one piece of anecdotal evidence that I don’t feel gets talked about enough. (To repeat: I am aware this is anecdotal!)

I had Covid back at the start of August — for the first time as far as I know, and after two Pfizer vaccinations. It was hardly the worst week of my life (I watched the entirety of Call my Agent, which was a saving grace) but I was ill enough to feel somewhat shortchanged by Messrs Pfizer and BioNtech. I had all the classic symptoms — loss of taste and smell, high fever, fatigue etc — and it felt pretty much how I would expect it to feel in an otherwise healthy 39 year old. ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Thursday, 30
September 2021

BBC News reports a non-existent religious revival

A poll suggested a boom in religiosity among young people — but it's not true

An opinion poll result written up prominently on the BBC News website this week caused quite a stir.

Young people more likely to pray than over 55s – survey” ran the headline, with data and commentary provided by the respected international polling company Savanta ComRes. The astonishing results suggest that 51% of British 18-34 year olds pray at least once a month, compared to 24% of over 55 year olds; and that fully 49% of the youngest age group attend a place of worship every month, compared to just 16% of over 55 year olds.

How surprising! There was I thinking that we were in a rapidly secularising society, with most people (52%) now claiming they have no religion whatsoever, and only 1% of the youngest age group describing themselves as Anglican, according to the most recent British Social Attitudes survey...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Tuesday, 28
September 2021

The Left’s case against vaccine passports

A group of senior Labour figures offers an animated defence of civil liberties

“Before the pandemic,”wrote Nate Silver the US political analyst, “I would have guessed that conservatives were COVID hawks and liberals were COVID doves.” It is an intriguing thought: perhaps, if a few key figures had made different decisions, the political argument of the past 18 months could have flipped entirely between Left and Right?

Yesterday I chaired a fringe meeting at the Labour Party Conference in which we were given a glimpse of that parallel universe: a group of senior Labour figures, mainly from the Left of the party, brought together by the campaign group Big Brother Watch to discuss “the Left case against Covid passes.” Blur your eyes and you could just make out how it would have looked — a Left that was still animated by a defence of civil liberties. ...  Continue reading

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