Sunday, January 23, 2022

Life returns to normal in Florida

 Inside Florida, the state that forgot COVID-19 is a national emergency | New York Post - Kyle Smith:

Spring break, Orlando, Florida, March 2021

January 6, 2022 - "The greatest feeling about Florida is the sheer 'Gonna ride this hog wherever it takes me' exuberance. I’ve been down there maybe eight or 10 times during the pandemic and arriving in any airport is like crossing the Wall out of East Berlin. Quite a lot of people wear masks in malls and stores, but most don’t. Nobody mask-shames anybody. You don’t need a vaccine card at all, much less have to dig out your Excelsior Pass three times a day. 

"This is because Florida accepts the basic truth that should have been Washington’s guidance from Day 1: If you’re vaccinated, the COVID-19 emergency is over for you; if you’re not, well, the risk is yours.  

"Florida schoolchildren have been back in school and unmasked since August 2020. Life is normal for them, except for the amusement value of seeing panicky teachers in masks. New York’s children, like those in many areas where the Democratic Party and its affiliated teachers unions rule, are essentially being used as human shields.... Kids are suffering so badly here that even the New York Times is starting gently to suggest that maybe we should take our hands off our children’s throats — masking them, forbidding them to socialize and exercise and even talk at lunchtime, canceling their extracurriculars, canceling childhood.

"The unemployment rate in Florida, heavily dependent on tourism, spiked to 14.2 percent in May 2020, fell to half of that by September and now stands at 4.5 percent (as of November). New York? Peaked at 16.6 percent in April 2020, but remains third-worst in the nation at 6.6 percent. In February 2020, that figure stood at 3.9 percent. New York is stacking its own crises on top of the virus problem.

"Florida’s response since the summer of 2020 has been to act as the state embodiment of the Great Barrington Declaration in which academics Jay Bhattacharya, Martin Kulldorff and Sunetra Gupta (of Stanford, Harvard and Oxford, respectively) argued that we are never going to eliminate the virus, so we’d better take mitigation strategies for the most vulnerable but otherwise learn to live with it.... 

"One of the great self-owns in Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s career of auto-embarrassment came when she took the bait National Review dangled when it published a picture of her enjoying a Christmas vacation drink in Miami Beach. Florida, people like AOC keep telling us, is a COVID-superspreading lunatic state that actually voted for Donald Trump (twice). Yet where does AOC go when she wants to unwind? Not just Florida, but the part of it that is getting hit hardest in the Omicron wave....AOC then attacked Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and suggested he take some 'tips' from her state’s governor, Kathy Hochul.

"AOC telling Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to take tips from Gov. Hochul is laughable.... As I write these words, the state with the most COVID cases in the country is … New York, which has 70 percent more cases than Florida, and five times as many deaths per 100,000.

"Heavy restriction is getting us nowhere. If we’re going to get hammered by the Omicron wave anyway, can we please have some freedom back?"

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Saturday, January 22, 2022

Faulty models panicked UK into Covid lockdown

‘Wildly incorrect’ Covid modelling bounced Boris Johnson into second lockdown, MPs told | The Telegraph - Sarah Knapton:

January 18, 2022 - "Boris Johnson was bounced into the second coronavirus lockdown after a 'terrifying' and 'wildly incorrect' model warning of 4,000 deaths a day was leaked to the press, MPs have heard. 

"Speaking at a debate at Westminster Hall on the use of models in the pandemic, Steve Baker, deputy chairman of the Covid recovery group, described how the Prime Minister had contacted him shortly before announcing new restrictions on October 31 2020 asking for advice. Modelling from Cambridge University and Public Health England (PHE) had suggested that without immediate restrictions there could be 4,000 deaths per day by the end of December. Mr Baker said that he had told Mr Johnson to challenge the model, and Prof Tim Spector, of King’s College London, and Prof Carl Heneghan, of Oxford University, were called into Downing Street to go over the data. But by the time the models were shown to be inaccurate, it was too late to stop public calls for restrictions.

"Mr Baker said: 'By Monday, Carl Heneghan had taken the wheels of those death projections, by which time the Prime Minister had, disgracefully, been bounced using a leak into a lockdown. This is absolutely no way to conduct public policy. The reality is the Prime Minister was shown a terrifying model which was subsequently proven to be widely incorrect but he took away freedoms from tens of millions on that basis. It is monstrous that millions of people were locked down, effectively under house arrest, their businesses destroyed, their children prevented from getting an education. The situation is now perfectly plain that even our most basic liberties can be taken away by the stroke of a pen, if a minister has been shown sufficiently persuasive modelling that tells them there is trouble ahead.' 

"Mr Baker, the MP for Wycombe, called for the establishment of an Office for Research Integrity within the Cabinet Office to challenge the data coming from modelling. 

"The Westminster debate was called by Bob Seely, the MP for the Isle of Wight, who argued that the use of the modelling in the pandemic was approaching a national scandal. Mr Seely warned that the 'doomsday public health scenarios' had been used to create a 'despicable' and 'unforgivable' climate of fear, based on 'a sort of glorified guesswork.... Never before has so much harm been done to so many, by so few based on so little questionable and potentially flawed data,' he said. 'We had a nervous Government presented with doomsday scenarios which panicked it into a course of profound acting with shocking outcomes. I believe the use of modelling is pretty much getting up there for a national scandal'....

"Miriam Cates, the MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, said far too little attention had been paid to the collateral damage of lockdowns. 'This wasn’t just a paper exercise,' she said. 'These models and the weight they have been given has caused serious destruction.... Who was modelling the outcomes of child abuse, of poverty, of loneliness and despair and fear?'"

"Responding to the debate, Maggie Throup, the vaccines minister, said that an inquiry into modelling should form part of the official pandemic inquiry and promised that 'lessons will be learned'. But she said the Government did not just rely on models but also looked at what was happening in the real world."

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Friday, January 21, 2022

Czech gov't scraps Covid-vax mandate 'nonsense'

Czech Republic scraps vaccine mandate as daily cases hit record high | The Independent - William Nattrass: 

Jan. 20, 2022 - "The Czech Republic’s new government has scrapped a decree making Covid vaccines mandatory for over-60s and key workers in some professions, with the country’s health minister describing the previous administration’s plan as 'nonsense from the start'. The mandate – which was supposed to come into effect in March for the elderly as well as health and care workers, police officers and firefighters – was dismissed by Prime Minister Petr Fiala’s new centre-right government.... 'We see no reason for compulsory vaccination' ... Mr Fiala said at a press conference on Wednesday. However, he emphasised that the government still considered vaccines as 'the best way to fight Covid'.

"Coalition members of the five-party government had opposed the vaccine mandate ever since it was introduced in December in the twilight days of the previous regime led by Andrej Babis. The plan sparked protests in Prague and elsewhere in the country. The 'Open Czechia' protest organization ran a petition claiming that 'instead of relevant expert information allowing citizens to make their own decision, the government is forcing us to be vaccinated through tools of corruption and extortion!' About 63 per cent of Czechs are fully vaccinated, below the European Union average, according [to]the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control....

"'The mandate was not defined well, so from this perspective we are happy that it will be cancelled,' said Jiří Horecký, president of the Association of Social Service Providers, which advocates for the rights of social workers. 'The group of people obliged to be vaccinated was unclear, the explanatory report was not up to date, and there were no exceptions for people who already had Covid,” he told The Independent.

"The country’s health minister Vlastimil Válek said the government had delivered on its promise to revoke the vaccine mandate. 'I considered mandatory Covid 19 vaccination nonsense from the start,' he said on Twitter....

"The government announced that asymptomatic key healthcare and social workers who test positive for Covid may be allowed to continue working to keep services running. Companies want the list to be extended, while cabinet members are pushing for the so-called “working quarantine” to apply to other key workers including firefighters, police officers, and transport staff. Mr Fiala’s administration has also shortened quarantine and isolation times, while launching mandatory testing of employees at companies from this week."

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Austria parliament approves mandatory Covid vaccination | France 24 - Alex Halada:

January 20, 2022 - "Austria's parliament on Thursday approved making Covid-19 vaccinations mandatory for adults from next month, becoming the first European country to do so despite a wave of protests opposing the measure. Tens of thousands have demonstrated against mandatory vaccination in regular weekend rallies since the measure was announced in November in a bid to drive up the country's vaccination rate. But all parties, except the far-right, supported the measure, with the new legislation passing with 137 votes in favour and 33 votes against it....

"To date 72 percent of Austrian residents have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus -- in line with the European Union-wide average of just more than 70 percent.... 

"Under the new law, after an initial "introductory phase" those holding out against the jab can face fines of up to 3,600 euros ($4,084) from mid-March. The government initially wanted to cover everyone aged 14 and older, but now the measure only applies to adults, except pregnant women and those with a medical exemption.

"The only significant opposition came from the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe), which has courted anti-vaccination voters. FPOe leader Herbert Kickl railed against the law in Thursday's charged parliamentary debate, claiming it 'paves the way to totalitarianism in Austria'. He vowed that he himself would continue to refuse vaccination in defiance of the new law."

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Thursday, January 20, 2022

Plan B controls ending in England by month end

England rolling back COVID-19 restrictions, PM Boris Johnson says | CBC News:

January 19, 2022- "British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the end of COVID-19 measures introduced to curb the rapid spread of the Omicron variant in England.... Britain was the first country to limit international travel over the Omicron variant ... and in December introduced work-at-home advice, more mask-wearing and vaccine passes to slow its spread. But while cases soared to record highs, hospitalizations and deaths have not risen by the same extent, in part due to Britain's booster rollout and the variant's lesser severity.

Johnson speaking at press conference, July 2020. Wikimedia Commons 

"Johnson's approach to avoid lockdowns and live with the virus contrasts with a zero tolerance approach to COVID-19 in China and Hong Kong, and tougher restrictions in many other European countries. 'Many nations across Europe have endured further winter lockdowns ... but this government took a different path,' Johnson told lawmakers, saying the government had got the toughest decisions right and that numbers going into intensive care were falling.

'Our scientists believe it is likely that the Omicron wave has now peaked nationally ... because of the extraordinary booster campaign, together with the way the public have responded to the Plan B measures, we can return to Plan A.' Johnson said that none of the so-called Plan B measures would remain, as face masks would not be legally enforced anywhere, COVID passes would not be mandatory and advice to work from home would end.

"The bulk of the changes will take effect late next week, U.K. media outlets reported....

"The prime minister hopes to reset his agenda following furor over the lockdown gatherings at his office, which has some in his party plotting to remove him. Johnson admitted he attended a party in the garden of his Downing Street office and residence in May 2020 while social mixing was banned. The lifting of Plan B measures, along with Johnson's navigation of Omicron without resorting to a stringent lockdown, could help him appease vocal opponents of restrictions in his own caucus amid the party unrest.

"He said that if data supported it, he may end the legal requirement for people to self-isolate if they test positive before the regulation lapses in March. 'But to make that possible, we must all remain cautious during these last weeks of winter,' he said, warning of continued pressure on hospitals. '"The pandemic is not over."'

"A third of Britain's 15 million cases have been reported since the onset of Omicron. By contrast, Britain has reported five per cent of its COVID deaths since the variant was identified in late November."

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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Covid lockdowns were a serious mistake, says UK's Lord Frost

Lord Frost: Covid lockdowns were a serious mistake – the Government needs to do ‘stuff that works’ | The Telegraph - Tony Diver:

January 13, 2022 - "Lord Frost has accused the Government of 'Covid theatre', as he called on Boris Johnson to scrap mask mandates and warned that the country will look back on lockdowns as a 'serious public policy mistake'.

"Instead of pursuing 'stuff that works' such as antiviral drugs and effective ventilation, Mr Johnson has locked down the country and restricted freedoms unnecessarily, the peer argued, as he called on ministers to rule out any prospect of a new lockdown and to consider a more diverse range of advice when making public health decisions.

"Speaking to this week’s episode of The Telegraph’s Planet Normal podcast, which you can listen to [below - gd] ... Frost also said that the Government’s controversial net zero agenda had been 'rushed', and that technology receiving taxpayers’ money 'may not be the best way forward' but is 'increasing costs on individuals'. His opposition to many of the most significant policy decisions of the Prime Minister’s premiership will buoy Conservative backbenchers who have recently rebelled against the front bench on Covid measures and environmental policy.

"Lord Frost, who rose to prominence as an adviser to Mr Johnson in the Foreign Office before being handed a peerage for his leadership of the UK’s Brexit negotiating team, resigned dramatically days before Christmas over concerns about the Government’s 'direction of travel'. He told The Telegraph that coronavirus policy was the main reason for his departure from the Cabinet. 'That was the reason I resigned. That’s what took me out of the Government in December,' he said. 'I didn’t agree with the Plan B measures, masks, vaccine passports – that’s what forced me out.'

"The peer said that, when the pandemic is viewed in hindsight, the UK has 'come out relatively positively' but that lockdowns will be revealed to be an error. 'I think, honestly, people are going to look back at the last couple of years globally and see lockdown as a pretty serious public policy mistake,' he said.

“I would like to see the Government ruling out lockdowns for the future; repealing the legislation; ending them. We can’t afford it [and] it doesn’t work. Stop doing Covid theatre – vaccine passports, masks, stuff that doesn’t work – and focus on stuff that does work so that we’re ready if the next one is worse. Stuff like ventilation, antivirals, proper hospital capacity, managing it properly – that’s what we need to be focusing on going forward....

"'I’ve seen a fair bit of the material and I do think that there hasn’t been enough internal debate. There haven’t been enough voices challenging the epidemiologists. There hasn’t been enough of a voice of the economy in this, [or] an attempt to get to grips with the trade-offs. I have seen the Prime Minister kind of groping for that information and it not being there, and I think he’s not necessarily being well-served by everybody around him.'"

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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

US states adding 3rd shot to Covid-vax mandates

New Mexico adds boosters to COVID-19 vaccine mandates | Las Cruces Sun-News - Algernon D'Ammassa:

December 2, 2021 - "Workers covered by existing COVID-19 vaccine mandates in New Mexico will be required to get booster shots as well, beginning in January. The state Department of Health on Thursday amended its public health order requiring workers at schools, hospitals and congregate care facilities and the governor's office to be vaccinated, adding the additional dose to existing requirements. The new order states that those workers must document full vaccination plus booster by Jan. 17 or within four weeks of being eligible for the booster, which comes six months after completing a primary course of vaccine. 

"If primary and booster vaccinations are not documented with their employer, the workers must present a negative COVID-19 test weekly and wear a mask indoors at all times except when eating or drinking. The health order allows for medical or religious exemptions, but still requires weekly testing and masking requirements in those cases.

"On Nov. 29, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 'strengthened' its recommendation that all adults receive a boost to their COVID-19 vaccinations, six months after receiving Moderna or Pfizer's vaccines or two months after Johnson and Johnson. The booster doses were approved for adults last month by the Food and Drug Administration."
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New York mandating COVID booster shot for health care workers. What to know | Journal News - David Robinson:

January 2, 2022 - "Gov. Kathy Hochul on Friday announced a COVID-19 booster shot mandate for health care workers in New York, citing the rising numbers of vaccine breakthrough infections caused by the omicron variant. The mandate, which is pending approval by a state Health Department panel on Tuesday, would require workers at hospitals, nursing homes and other health care settings to get the booster shot within two weeks of becoming eligible, Hochul said.... New York would become the first state in the country to mandate a booster shot for health care workers. There would be a medical exemption allowed, but religious exemptions would be barred, according to Hochul's media briefing in Manhattan.

"The booster mandate comes after New York implemented one of the nation's first vaccine mandates for health care workers on Sept. 27. New York's initial vaccine mandate led to about 34,000 health workers losing jobs or being placed on leave, reflecting a reduction of 3.5% of the workforce. The vaccine mandate worker losses intensified long-standing staffing shortages at many hospitals and nursing homes, a situation that has only gotten worse as the omicron variant surge shattered records for daily infections, including 82,000 cases on Thursday alone.... 

"Hochul asserted that mandating a booster shot for health care workers would have a limited impact on staffing shortages, citing how 92% of the health workforce complied with the initial vaccine mandate.... But the uptake of boosters among some health care workers has lagged behind the national averages for getting the additional doses in arms."
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January 17, 2022 - "Hawaii will require visitors to the state to have received a COVID-19 vaccine booster if they want to skip quarantine. Currently, under the rules of the state's 'Safe Travels' program, travelers who don't want to quarantine for five days must either be fully vaccinated -- meaning two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine or one shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine -- or have a negative COVID-19 test within one day of travel. [The change] means fully vaccinated travelers who haven't received a booster shot will have to quarantine in Hawaii for five days.

"Ige said changes to the program will not occur for at least two weeks so people traveling to Hawaii can adjust their plans accordingly.... Ige also said he was speaking with mayors and other local leaders about requiring booster shots to dine in restaurants and participate in other activities and events. However, he said he will leave that decision up to individual counties.

"Last month, Maui Mayor Michael Victorino revealed booster shots would be required for locals to be considered fully vaccinated. The rule was supposed to go into effect on Jan. 8 but was delayed until Jan. 24 so people have time to schedule booster shots, reported KHON 2.

"This move comes as the Hawaii Tourism Authority announced the Safe Travels program would be undergoing several changes, including reducing the mandatory quarantine period for unvaccinated travelers without a negative COVID-19 test from 10 days to five days, in accordance with updated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. Additionally, visitors will no longer be required to fill out an online questionnaire 24 hours before arrival to receive a QR code."
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Monday, January 17, 2022

Thousands protest Covid controls in Europe

Thousands protest against France COVID vaccine pass | Al Jazeera:

January 15, 2022 - "Protesters have taken to the streets in cities across France to reject a law that would see the implementation of tighter restrictions on people not vaccinated against COVID-19, as Parliament continues to debate the draft bill. Thousands took part in demonstrations on Saturday.... In the capital, Paris, where the largest single gathering set off from near the Eiffel Tower, the protest was called by anti-EU presidential candidate Florian Philippot. Other protests harked back to the 'yellow vests' movement of 2018-19 ... and there were further gatherings in big cities including Bordeaux, Toulouse and Lille.

"In Paris, demonstrators bore French and regional flags, with banners bearing messages like 'it’s not the virus they want to control, it’s you'.... Demonstrators were hoping to outstrip the 105,000 who hit the streets last weekend, some possibly mobilised by Macron’s declaration in a newspaper interview that he wanted to “p**s off” the unvaccinated with new restrictions"
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Thousands protest against Dutch COVID restrictions | Al Jazeera

January 16, 2022 - "Thousands of protesters have packed Amsterdam’s streets in opposition to the government-imposed COVID-19 restrictions and vaccination campaign as virus infections hit a new record. Authorities were granted stop and search powers at several locations across the city and scores of riot police vans patrolled neighbourhoods where the demonstrators marched with banners and yellow umbrellas.

"Regular protests against COVID measures are held across the country and Sunday’s large gathering was joined by farmers who drove to the capital and parked tractors along the central Museum Square. The crowd played music, chanted anti-government slogans and then marched along thoroughfares, blocking traffic. Al Jazeera’s Step Vassen said while the mood at the rally was 'quite heated', the protests were peaceful. 'There’s a wide range of people against government measures and a general distrust of politics,' she said. 'A lot of people are now not obeying the rules and are violating many of the rules that are still in place'....

"The Netherlands had one of Europe’s toughest lockdowns for a month through the end-of-year holidays.... Rutte’s government ordered the lockdown in mid-December as a wave of the Delta variant forced the health system to cancel all but the most urgent care...."Non-essential stores, hairdressers, beauty salons and other service providers were allowed to reopen on Saturday under strict conditions. Bars, restaurants and cultural venues have been instructed to remain closed until at least January 25."
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