breaking news from the world of ideas

by Freddie Sayers
Tuesday, 15
February 2022

Louis Gave: What the Moderna share price reveals about vaccines

The financial markets have been underwhelmed by the data

Pre-pandemic, Moderna was a $9 billion company. But by the time Covid had spread around the world the biotech company’s value grew to $35 billion. Then came the advent of the vaccines, of which Moderna was one of the leading manufacturers, and the company’s net worth soared to an eye-popping $195 billion in September of 2021.

Given the large numbers of countries recommending boosters, one might expect the Moderna share price to keep rising. But, strangely, the opposite has happened. Since the end of November 2021, the company’s share price has actually been declining dramatically, falling from $368 to $147 at the time of writing. ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Friday, 4
February 2022

What Munira Mirza’s departure really means

The departing Head of Policy was in charge of fighting the culture war

You don’t leave a boss you have been working with for 14 years because he made a single ill-judged gaffe in the House of Commons. Munira Mirza’s elegantly expressed resignation, apparently on the basis of the Jimmy Savile comments, is surely about much more than that.

The timing of her walk-out is interesting. It suggests she thinks Boris is doomed and that she is considering her next moves. She made her announcement half an hour before Rishi Sunak’s presidential address on cost of living. Might this suggest she has thrown her lot in with the Chancellor, and that with Cummings in the wings, Sunak could be the new vehicle to get the old gang back together? We will see soon enough. ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Tuesday, 1
February 2022

Why were Denmark’s Covid models better than England’s?

From today, the Nordic nation has annulled all its Covid laws

The extent of the failure of British Covid scientists in the pre-Christmas Omicron panic is only now becoming clear. As brutally documented over at the Spectator, the models produced by both the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Warwick University were wildly pessimistic compared to what actually happened. It was a failure that very nearly bounced the Government into further lockdown-style measures before Christmas.

What is additionally troubling is that other countries’ modelling groups seem to have been much more successful. I spoke to Dr Camilla Holten-Møller, the chair of the Expert Group for Mathematical Modelling at Denmark’s public health agency ‘Statens Serum Institut’. She led the team that produced the models in December that informed Danish policy, and her group’s updated advice in January led to today’s cancellation of all Danish Covid restrictions (even as case numbers continue to climb to all-time highs). ...  Continue reading

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