Saturday, May 8, 2021

Suspending IP rights will not help end pandemic

Biden Administration Should Absolutely Reject Patent Waivers for COVID-19 Vaccines | Reason - Ronald Bailey: 

May 4, 2021 - "A coalition of developing countries led by India and South Africa are pushing the World Trade Organization to suspend patent rights to the vaccines, arguing that doing so will enable them to get more shots to poor people across the globe. Progressives in the U.S., such as Senators Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) are arguing that suspending the patents is a moral imperative. However, suspending patents is not a moral imperative, it's moral grandstanding and would do nothing to get the vaccines faster to the people who need them.

"The World Health Organization lists fewer than 25 countries capable of manufacturing any vaccines whatsoever, much less the novel and highly complex COVID-19 vaccines.... Just lifting patent protection would do nothing to actually enable most poor countries to ramp up production of these vaccines, and it would discourage companies from continuing to make them now and in the future.

"[T]he vaccine makers are on track to supply enough COVID-19 vaccine to inoculate 7 billion people by the end of this year. It would be much more helpful for progressives to put aside their vendetta against the pharmaceutical companies and instead concentrate on figuring out the logistics of getting vaccines to people in poor countries."
Read more:

The Biden administration says it will support lifting patent protections to help produce more vaccines globally | New York Times:

May 5, 2021 - "The Biden administration on Wednesday came out in support of waiving intellectual property protections for Covid-19 vaccines.... Katherine Tai, the United States trade representative, announced the administration’s position in a statement on Wednesday afternoon.

"'This is a global health crisis, and the extraordinary circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures,' she said. 'The administration believes strongly in intellectual property protections, but in service of ending this pandemic, supports the waiver of those protections for Covid-19 vaccines.'"
Read more:

Patents are Not the Problem! | Marginal Revolution - Alex Tabarrok:

May 6, 2021 - "Waive IP protections. So simple. Why didn’t I think of that???

"Patents are not the problem. All of the vaccine manufacturers are trying to increase supply as quickly as possible. Billions of doses are being produced – more than ever before in the history of the world. Licenses are widely available. AstraZeneca have licensed their vaccine for production with manufactures around the world, including in India, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, China and South Africa. J&J’s vaccine has been licensed for production by multiple firms in the United States as well as with firms in Spain, South Africa and France. Sputnik has been licensed for production by firms in India, China, South Korea, Brazil and pending EMA approval with firms in Germany and France. Sinopharm has been licensed in the UAE, Egypt and Bangladesh. Novavax has licensed its vaccine for production in South Korea, India, and Japan and it is desperate to find other licensees but technology transfer isn’t easy and there are limited supplies of raw materials....

"Plastic bags are a bigger bottleneck than patents. The US embargo on vaccine supplies to India was precisely that the Biden administration used the DPA [Defense Production Act] to prioritize things like bioreactor bags and filters to US suppliers and that meant that India’s Serum Institute was having trouble getting its production lines ready for Novavax. CureVac, another potential mRNA vaccine, is also finding it difficult to find supplies due to US restrictions (which means supplies are short everywhere). As Derek Lowe said: 'Abolishing patents will not provide more shaker bags or more Chilean tree bark, nor provide more of the key filtration materials needed for production. These processes have a lot of potential choke points and rate-limiting steps in them, and there is no wand that will wave that complexity away.'

"Technology transfer has been difficult for AstraZeneca ... and their vaccine uses relatively well understood technology. The mRNA technology is new and has never before been used to produce at scale. Pfizer and Moderna had to build factories and distribution systems from scratch. There are no mRNA factories idling on the sidelines. If there were, Moderna or Pfizer would be happy to license since they are producing in their own factories 24 hours a day, seven days a week.... Moderna has said that they won’t enforce their patents during the pandemic but no one has stepped up to produce because no one else can.

"The US trade representative’s announcement is virtue signaling to the anti-market left and will do little to nothing to increase supply."
Read more:

Friday, May 7, 2021

U.S. states pass freedom-to-worship bills

States Move to Shore Up Religious Freedom in a Post-COVID World | Washington Free Beacon - Graham Piro:

May 4, 2021 - "Montana, Oklahoma, and Arkansas are pushing legislation that would further protect religious liberty in the wake of shutdown orders mandating that places of worship close their doors entirely or operate under significantly curtailed conditions. 

  • The Montana Religious Freedom Restoration Act, signed into law by Republican governor Greg Gianforte, establishes that the government 'may not substantially burden a person's right to the exercise of religion.' 
  • Oklahoma's law, signed by Republican governor Kevin Stitt, similarly makes restrictions on religious worship because of an emergency more difficult to enforce. 
  • The Arkansas legislature went a step further and proposed an amendment to the state constitution that would establish similar protections for religious worship. The amendment will be voted on by Arkansas voters next year....

"The state laws expand on protections for religious liberty that were enacted by the passage of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 1993. Montana joins 21 other states that have enacted their own expansions of the 1993 law. Montana's legislation comes on the heels of a contentious year of restrictions on religious worship due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19.

"The laws are likely to find a sympathetic Supreme Court, as it has repeatedly ruled against restrictions on religious worship during the coronavirus pandemic. The Court repeatedly signaled its support for legal challenges brought by religious organizations against state-issued limitations on in-person religious services. The Democratic strongholds of New York and California found themselves in the Court's crosshairs on multiple occasions for singling out religious institutions for harsh treatment even as they eased restrictions on businesses and other organizations....

"Critics of the laws argued that the laws would turn into vehicles to challenge government non-discrimination statutes. 'This [law] allows individuals to turn the shield of religious freedom we all hold dear into a weapon to attack LGBTQ and Indigenous Montanans,' said Shawn Reagor, director of Equality and Economic Justice with the Montana Human Rights Network.

"State senator Carl Glimm (R.), the author of Montana's bill, said the legislation is necessary to protect places of worship from harsh treatment by heightening the standard necessary for governments to order their shuttering.... Glimm said[:]. 'This bill would have given churches their day in court, for the government to have to prove that there was a sufficient need to close them.'"

Read more:

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Lockdown opponent wins Madrid election

She Kept Madrid Open in the Pandemic. Voters Rewarded Her | New York Times - Raphael Minder:

May 5, 2021 - "She is a conservative who campaigned on a slogan that came down to one word: freedom. She offered herself as a champion of small business and scoffed at national coronavirus restrictions. Her critics called her a 'Trumpista.' But Isabel Díaz Ayuso is now a rising force in Spanish politics. Voters rewarded the right-wing leader of the Madrid region with a landslide victory on Tuesday after she defied the central government by keeping the capital’s bars and shops open throughout much of the pandemic.

"She suggested that her victory showed that pandemic fatigue and economic distress had left Spaniards unwilling to endure more of the measures favored by the left-wing national government led by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez....

"Ms. Ayuso’s Popular Party more than doubled its number of seats in Madrid’s regional assembly, trouncing other parties, including Mr. Sánchez’s Socialists. Her party fell just short of an absolute majority but will hold onto power with support from the far-right Vox party.

"She is the most talked-about politician in Spain right now. But with nationwide elections not planned for another two years, analysts are divided over whether she could make the leap to the national political stage, or would even want to. Even so, Ms. Ayuso’s victory could signal that a shift to the right is underway more broadly as the country struggles to emerge from the ravages of the pandemic.

"Ms. Ayuso, 42, stuck to a simple and clear message that connected with voters who have endured more than a year of pandemic, said Lluís Orriols, a professor of politics at the Carlos III University in Madrid. 'Maintaining Madrid open and economically active was something visible to all, while demonstrating that lockdown measures really help keep people healthy is something harder to do,' Mr. Orriols said.

"Madrid was the epicenter of Spain’s pandemic in the spring of 2020, when its hospitals overflowed with Covid-19 patients. But after the central government lifted a nationwide state of emergency last June, Ms. Ayuso ensured that the city was one of the most bustling in Europe, even when its Covid-19 infection rate crept back up after Easter [2021]....

"Ms. Ayuso’s handling of the pandemic provoked tensions even within her administration. After resigning last year as the head of Madrid’s regional health services, Dr. Yolanda Fuentes recently attacked Ms. Ayuso’s campaign slogan on Twitter. 'To understand that freedom means to do whatever you want during a pandemic, when intensive-care units are above capacity and colleagues feel defeated, seems to me indecent, to say the least,' Dr. Fuentes said.

"Outside the headquarters of the Popular Party on Tuesday evening, a crowd of supporters ... said they were celebrating Ms. Ayuso’s personal victory rather than that of her party and its national leader, Pablo Casado.... Mariola Vicario, a 25-year-old student, said of Ms. Ayuso. 'I don’t consider Casado to have her strength.' In terms of handling the pandemic, Ms. Vicario said that Ms. Ayuso 'took measures when needed, but what she did not do is let people starve to death' by keeping Madrid’s economy shut down as long as that of other cities.

Read more:

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Pro-vaxxers not following the science, either

COVID Vax Opponents and Rigid Proponents...Are Both Anti-Science? | MedPage Today -  Vinay Prasad, MD:

May 4, 2021 - "In mid-April, vaccine scientists and regulators were alerted to six serious adverse events after administration of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine ... in women ages 18 to 48 ... similar to reports from Europe regarding the other adenoviral-based vaccine made by AstraZeneca. The syndrome is best described as vaccine-induced thrombocytopenia and thrombosis (VITT).... 

"VITT can result in death, but also, serious and irreversible neurological impairment in an otherwise young healthy individual. After the FDA and CDC were alerted to these six cases, the agencies called for a pause or moratorium to be placed on use of the J&J shot pending further review. A few days later, a panel of experts extended the pause by 1 week, during which time at least nine additional cases of the syndrome were identified. After a hearing to discuss the risk and benefit, the Advisory Committee of Immunology Practices (ACIP) voted to resume vaccination with J&J without any restrictions by age or gender, though they recommended placing a warning....

"The moment six cases were publicly reported and the pause was instituted, a large number of experts expressed anger on social media. They claimed the denominator was the seven million doses of the vaccine that had been administered, and this event rate -- less than one in a million -- was a trivial safety signal. Some were critical of the pause itself -- which I will discuss in the next section -- while others worked to immediately downplay concerns of the risk. A popular series of memes compared the risk of CVT and VITT to the risk of thrombosis from other events. One compared VITT to the risk of clot with oral contraception and thrombosis after COVID-19. These went viral (no pun intended).

"Unfortunately, these comparisons perpetuated at least five errors.

  • First, one in a million was almost surely the wrong number. The moment a novel safety signal is identified, preliminary estimates of frequency are utterly unreliable.... There are likely more unreported cases, which will raise the numerator, and the denominator should not include all vaccinated individuals. The correct denominator is the fraction of vaccinated individuals in the demographic group experiencing the severe event -- in this case, women ages 18 to 48. I tweeted that I would not be surprised if the true incidence jumped one order of magnitude when we had more facts -- a prediction that has since been vindicated.
  • Second, comparing the risk of CVT in the setting of VITT to a garden variety venous thromboembolism is misleading. A deep vein thrombosis of the leg is not comparable to one in the cerebral vein in the setting of runaway platelet activation. I have long wondered how much anatomy should be taught in medical school, but I can now confidently say we should definitely clarify the difference between veins that drain the brain and those that drain the leg.
  • Third, comparing the risk of CVT and VITT after vaccination to the risk of clot after COVID-19 is inappropriate. Getting COVID-19 and getting vaccinated are different. A vaccine's risk cannot be changed, while the risk of COVID-19 can be altered or modified by behavior. In fact, the bulk of this past year has been making behavior changes to modify SARS-CoV-2 risk.
  • Fourth, some numbers are simply wrong. A 16.5% risk of clot among someone with COVID-19 is an inflated figure that, as far as I can tell, comes from meta-analyses of ICU patients in the first wave. These analyses likely suffer from selection, surveillance, and ascertainment bias, among other problems.
  • Fifth, comparing the risk of CVT and VITT to oral contraception was objectionable.... [I]nformation about the risk of clot is available before women start taking the pill and they can balance this against their other desires. With CVT and VITT, women did not know the precise risk, still don't know exactly, and these folks were essentially arguing against providing women that information.

"The first crux of the public communication failure is to ask why, when we hear of a novel adverse event, is the reaction of so many experts to downplay or trivialize the risk? Why construct minimizing memes when you have not even gathered all the relevant facts? The answer to this question warrants reflection, but I will offer a hypothesis. 

"In 2021, there is clearly a small, but vocal minority of individuals opposed to nearly all vaccinations.... In response, there is a group of individuals on the other extreme. To them, either one must embrace all vaccines for all indications for all ages, or one can be lumped with the other extreme. They favor universal child vaccination of SARS-CoV-2 via an EUA, even before they have the data for that claim. They were quick to embrace vaccination for pregnant woman prior to appropriate trials establishing safety. Suppressing critical thinking to extol vaccines is also wrong and may backfire, but I believe this explains why it occurs. It is, to some degree, a counter-movement against the anti-vaxxers, which can go too far.

"All of this discussion is not a referendum on the pause, which must be considered on its own merits.... [W]hether the FDA and CDC should have issued a total pause for J&J vaccine ... cannot be settled by rhetoric. It requires careful studies. Pauses have complex downstream effects. Yes, they may poison vaccine acceptance. On the other hand, inaction, while the tally of women with CVT and VITT rises, is also a dangerous game."

Read more:

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Scientists confirm immune response to variants

SARS-CoV-2 Variants Still Recognized by T Cells | Immunology & Microbiology, Technology Networks - original story from the National Institutes of Health:

March 31, 2021 - "When variants of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) emerged in late 2020, concern arose that they might elude protective immune responses generated by prior infection or vaccination, potentially making re-infection more likely or vaccination less effective. To investigate this possibility, researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, and colleagues analyzed blood cell samples from 30 people who had contracted and recovered from COVID-19 prior to the emergence of virus variants. They found that one key player in the immune response to SARS-CoV-2 — the CD8+ T cell — remained active against the virus.

"The research team was led by NIAID’s Andrew Redd, Ph.D., and included scientists from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Immunomics-focused company, ImmunoScape.

"The investigators asked whether CD8+ T cells in the blood of recovered COVID-19 patients, infected with the initial virus, could still recognize three SARS-CoV-2 variants: B.1.1.7, which was first detected in the United Kingdom; B.1.351, originally found in the Republic of South Africa; and B.1.1.248, first seen in Brazil. Each variant has mutations throughout the virus, and, in particular, in the region of the virus’ spike protein that it uses to attach to and enter cells. Mutations in this spike protein region could make it less recognizable to T cells and neutralizing antibodies, which are made by the immune system’s B cells following infection or vaccination.

"Although details about the exact levels and composition of antibody and T-cell responses needed to achieve immunity to SARS-CoV-2 are still unknown, scientists assume that strong and broad responses from both antibodies and T cells are required to mount an effective immune response.  CD8+ T cells limit infection by recognizing parts of the virus protein presented on the surface of infected cells and killing those cells.

"In their study of recovered COVID-19 patients, the researchers determined that SARS-CoV-2-specific CD8+ T-cell responses remained largely intact and could recognize virtually all mutations in the variants studied. While larger studies are needed, the researchers note that their findings suggest that the T cell response in convalescent individuals, and most likely in vaccinees, are largely not affected by the mutations found in these three variants, and should offer protection against emerging variants."

Read more:   

Read study here: Redd AD, Nardin A, Kared H, et al. CD8+ T cell responses in COVID-19 convalescent individuals target conserved epitopes from multiple prominent SARS-CoV-2 circulating variants. Open Forum Infect. Dis. 2021;(ofab143). doi:10.1093/ofid/ofab143

Monday, May 3, 2021

Denmark's gov't mandates internal Covid passport

 Coronapas: The passport helping Denmark open up after Covid | BBC News - Adrienne Murray:

April 21, 2021 - "Football fans will be allowed into stadiums from Wednesday and bars, restaurants and museums are reopening as Denmark takes a big foot forward in lifting its coronavirus restrictions. 

"The big condition for Danes to take advantage of these new freedoms is that they must prove they are infection-free, by showing a coronapas or corona passport. It's a digital app on your phone which shows whether you have had a negative test result within the last 72 hours, a certificate of vaccination or proof of a previous infection two to 12 weeks earlier. It can also be in paper form if necessary.

"Digital certificates are seen as Europe's route out of lockdown, and the EU wants to have its scheme in place across all 27 member states by the end of June.... Privacy concerns have made the passes controversial in some countries, but Denmark is among the first to embrace the idea fully.

"Unlike much of Europe, this Scandinavian country succeeded in avoiding a third wave and has started easing a lockdown that began last December. Denmark's infection and death rates are now among the lowest in Europe and authorities here believe coronavirus is under control."

Read more:

Denmark among first in Europe to introduce COVID pass scheme } Euronews - with AFP:

March 29, 2021 - ""Businesses that allow customers in without a valid 'coronapas' will be fined €400 and up to €6,000 for repeat offences while clients will be fined €330, the Ministry of Justice has warned. Some retailers are unhappy about the coercive measure.

"'It is an unreasonable responsibility to impose (this control) on a small trader. It would have been much better if, for example, the police made inspection visits, like train inspectors,' said Jakob Brandt, head of the SMVdanmark federation of small and medium sized businesses, in an interview with the daily Politiken.

"The 'Men in Black' — who regularly protest against restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the deadly virus — have called for a protest against the "coronapas" and mass testing programme.... 'The Corona passport and the mass surveillance and registration of Danes that we put up with testify to a society based on distrust in citizens,' the group said in a Facebook post."

Read more:

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Canadian gov't moves to regulate online content

 'Full-blown assault' on free expression: Inside the comprehensive Liberal bill to regulate the internet |National Post - Tristin Hopper:

April 29, 2021 - "After more than 25 years of Canadian governments pursuing a hands-off approach to the online world, the government of Justin Trudeau is now pushing Bill C-10, a law that would see Canadians subjected to the most regulated internet in the free world. 

"Although pitched as a way to expand Canadian content provisions to the online sphere, the powers of Bill C-10 have expanded considerably in committee, including a provision introduced last week that could conceivably allow the federal government to order the deletion of any Facebook, YouTube, Instagram or Twitter upload made by a Canadian. In comments this week, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh indicated his party was open to providing the votes needed to pass C-10, seeing the bill as a means to combat online hate....

"Former CRTC commissioner Peter Menzies said in an interview that Bill C-10 'doesn’t just infringe on free expression, it constitutes a full-blown assault upon it and, through it, the foundations of democracy'....

"The draft text of Bill C-10 specifically included a clause exempting social media. While the government was looking to regulate the internet, it didn’t want to bother with anything 'uploaded to an online undertaking that provides a social media service by a user of the service.' Indeed, Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault has repeatedly framed C-10 as a way to regulate streaming services such as Netflix and Crave while leaving social media alone.... 

"But in a House of Commons Heritage committee meeting Friday the social media clause was deleted.... What the deletion means is that every single Canadian who posts to Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Twitter or YouTube could be treated like a broadcaster subject to CRTC oversight and sanction. The users themselves may not necessarily be subject to direct CRTC regulation, but social media providers would have to answer to every post on their platforms as if it were a TV show or radio program....

"When he introduced Bill C-10 in November, Guilbeault assured the House of Commons that 'user-generated content, news content and video games' would not be subject to the new regulations. Guilbeault’s 180-degree turn on social media ... [means that] if your Canadian website isn’t a text-only GeoCities blog from 1996, Bill C-10 thinks it’s a program deserving of CRTC regulation. This covers news sites, podcasts, blogs, the websites of political parties or activist groups and even foreign websites that might be seen in Canada. In a Monday meeting of the Canadian Heritage committee, smartphone apps were also thrown under the Bill C-10 rubric, although the complete text has not been released to the public.

"Passage of Bill C-10 would not subject Canadian content creators to a top-down China-style censorship regime.... But the ultimate effect of C-10 would be to plunge whole realms of independent media — from YouTubers to podcasters to bloggers — into an environment where they could face both a requirement for government registration as well as any number of CRTC content strictures drawn up without the need for additional legislation or oversight. As the bill’s official FAQ states, only after it becomes law will the CRTC decide 'how it should implement the new powers afforded by the Bill.'

"Michael Geist, a University of Ottawa professor and the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-Commerce Law, has been among one of the most persistent critics of Bill C-10, calling it 'dangerous,' and 'inexcusable.' In a February blog post, Geist noted that aside from C-10’s infringements on free expression, it could spark blowback.... Geist cites the experience of Facebook in Australia.... [After]  Australia passed legislation requiring the social media giant to compensate news companies whenever a link was shared on its platform ... Facebook simply banned the sharing of news content by Australian users, restoring it only after Australian legislation was amended.

"The penalties prescribed by Bill C-10 are substantial. For corporations, a first offence can yield penalties of up to $10 million, while subsequent offences could be up to $15 million apiece. If TikTok, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are suddenly put in a situation where their millions of users must follow the same rules as a Canadian cable channel or radio station, it’s not unreasonable to assume they may just follow Facebook’s example and take the nuclear option." 

Read more:

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Lockdown one of Canada's greatest policy failures, suggests economist

Economist: Lockdowns ‘Greatest Peacetime Policy Failure’ in Canada’s History | Foundation for Economic Education - Jon Miltimore: 

April 26, 2021 - "Canadian economist Douglas Ward Allen, the Burnaby Mountain Professor of Economics at Simon Fraser University, suggests the ineffectiveness of lockdowns may stem primarily from voluntary changes in behavior.

"'Lockdown jurisdictions were not able to prevent noncompliance, and non-lockdown jurisdictions benefited from voluntary changes in behavior that mimicked lockdowns,' writes Allen. 'The limited effectiveness of lockdowns explains why, after one year, the unconditional cumulative deaths per million, and the pattern of daily deaths per million, is not negatively correlated with the stringency of lockdown across countries.'

"Allen’s thesis would help explain the abundance of data that show lockdowns and other restrictions have been, at best, largely ineffective at reducing the spread of COVID-19. His study does not stop there, however.

"While much of Allen’s paper analyzes the literature to show that studies over-estimated the benefits of COVID-19 lockdowns, he also considers the cost of the lockdowns. In order to do this, he relies on the estimate from George Mason University economist Bryan Caplan regarding the quality of life lost due to lockdowns.

"Caplan frames this problem by asking, 'Suppose you could either live a year of life in the COVID era, or X months under normal conditions. What’s the value of X?' Caplan argues 10 months seems like a conservative estimate. Another way to think of this is that people would be willing to sacrifice 2 months of life to avoid a year of lockdowns. This estimate seems reasonable, due to the violence, job loss, business failure, and substance dependencies fostered by lockdowns. If a year of lockdowns means losing an equivalent of 2 months of life per person, multiplying that 2 months over the entire population of Canada (37.7 million people) gives a cost of 6.3 million years of life lost.

"If COVID-19 lockdowns made the death rate 10 percent lower, that would be equivalent to 22,333 years of life saved. Compared to the loss of 6.3 million years, this trade-off hardly seems worth it. Even if the frightening projections of the Imperial College of London had turned out to be correct — and Allen painstakingly shows they were not — the number of years saved from lockdowns would be 1,735,580, which is still significantly below the 6.3 million years of life lost.

"As more countries and states open and do not suffer the consequences lockdown proponents predicted, the empirical data will become increasingly difficult to ignore — especially as the adverse effects of lockdowns become more clear. For example, FEE’s Brad Polumbo recently reported on new CDC data that show 87,000 people died from drug overdoses from October 2019 to September 2020, a 30 percent increase from the same period the preceding year.... As more data are made available giving a complete picture of the effects of lockdowns, a long-established truth about tradeoffs observed by Nobel Prize-winning economist Ronald Coase is becoming apparent.

It would clearly be desirable if the only actions performed were those in which what was gained was worth more than what was lost,” wrote Coase. “But in choosing between social arrangements within the context of which individual decisions are made, we have to bear in mind that a change in the existing system which will lead to an improvement in some decisions may well lead to a worsening of others.

"To be sure, Allen’s research will not be the final word on lockdowns. But if his data are correct it will be difficult to disagree with his verdict on how history will judge government lockdowns. '[It] is possible that lockdowns will go down as one of the greatest peacetime policy failures in Canada’s history,' he writes."

Read more:

Read study here:

Friday, April 30, 2021

German gov't grabs lockdown powers from states

Germans confront new Covid lockdown rules that could last until June | CNBC - Holly Ellyatt:

April 26, 2021 - "Germany has implemented tough lockdown rules in a bid to curb a third wave of [Covid-19] infections, issuing a set of new measures expected to last until June. Protests have been seen in several German cities after the restrictions were introduced this weekend on coronavirus hot spots. A curfew, limits on customers in shops, leisure center closures and limits on household contacts are part of the measures....

"Enacting a 'nationwide emergency brake,' cities or districts that exceed a seven-day incidence rate of 100 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants over three consecutive days must now implement the lockdowns. Schools are to close if incidence rates are above 165 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants for three days in a row. Data from the Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s public health body, shows that all but one of Germany’s 16 states are above the threshold for the emergency brake to kick in.... 

"The measures, set out in the Infection Protection Act, effectively expand the federal government’s authority to control the pandemic. Germany’s states have been largely able to set their own rules....

"[T]he measures — and, particularly, the curfew, which will run from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. and allows people to leave their homes only if they must go to or from work, seek medical assistance or take a dog for a walk — have provoked fury among some members of the public, with small demonstrations taking place in several cities at the weekend, notably Frankfurt and Hanover.

"German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended the new rules, urging compliance. 'If we succeed now in reducing infections significantly and quickly, step-by-step relaxations will be possible in the foreseeable future,' she said in her weekly video podcast.... Finance Minister Olaf Scholz told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper that he didn’t think the measures would be eased before the end of May."

Read more:

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Covid antibody treatment going unused in Canada

Canadian-made COVID-19 antibody treatment sitting on shelves due to lack of administration plan | CTV News - Avis Favaro, Elizabeth St. Philip, Brooklyn Neustaeter, Solarina Ho:

April 24, 2021 - "A Canadian-made COVID-19 antibody treatment is sitting on hospital and pharmacy shelves amid the country’s third wave of the pandemic because doctors say a plan on how to administer the drug was never made.... 

"Bamlanivimab is a monoclonal antibody directed against the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The drug mimics the immune system’s ability to fight off the virus and was developed by AbCellera Biologics Inc. in Vancouver with the support of the federal government, which had committed up to $175.6 million to the company in May 2020 to develop antibody therapies.... The one-dose treatment, which is sold by Eli Lilly Canada, Inc., can be used in health-care facilities such as hospitals, as it is given by infusion into the veins of patients. As an antibody therapy, it is part of a major class of drugs normally used to treat diseases like cancer and rheumatoid arthritis, Sachdev Sidhu, a professor of molecular genetics at the University of Toronto, said in an interview....

"Health Canada authorized the drug in November 2020 under the interim order respecting the importation, sale and advertising of drugs for use in relation to COVID-19. According to Health Canada, 26,000 doses of the treatment were purchased for $40 million and distributed amongst the provinces. However, almost none of those doses have been used.

"Countries around the world have been using bamlanivimab to help keep COVID-19 patients out of hospital and reduce deaths for months. More than 400,000 COVID-19 patients worldwide have benefited from the drug, according to Michael McDougall, a spokesperson for Eli Lilly.... According to AbCellera Biologics, studies have shown the treatment is effective against SARS-CoV-2, and the variant first identified in the United Kingdom. Despite this, provincial health authorities have not yet made the treatment available to Canadians.

"AbCellera Biologics CEO Carl Hansen told CTV National News ... that provincial government[s] did not issue a plan on how to administer the treatment, causing doctors to leave it on shelves.... CTV News has reached out to provincial health units for comment, but did not hear back before this story was published....

"[T]he U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s recent revocation of bamlanivimab’s Emergency Use authorization could cause some confusion with the public. A Health Canada spokesperson told via email that ... 'There is no change to bamlanivimab authorization in Canada and Eli Lilly has not requested that Health Canada revoke its authorization. Bamlanivimab used by itself is effective against the B.1.1.7 (UK) variant, which is the main variant circulating in Canada at this time.'" 

Read more:

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

No return to normal in UK

Why June 21 won't be as much of a return to normal as we thought | The Telegraph - Gordon Raymer: 

April 27, 2021 "June 21 is burned into the public consciousness as the day when life will finally return to normal.... But there are growing signs that Covid-19 restrictions will remain in place long after the summer solstice. The Government’s scientific advisers want 'baseline measures', including social distancing, to continue for another year, councils are hiring Covid Marshals to start work in July, and vaccine passports are already being trialled. Meanwhile, legal powers to impose domestic Covid-19 restrictions have been extended by Parliament until September.... The Prime Minister insists 'the end really is in sight', but it increasingly seems that may only apply to those who own a telescope....

"Ministers are conducting a review of the 'one metre-plus rule', which allows restaurant customers, office workers and others to sit one metre apart if mitigations such as screens and extra ventilation are in place. Pubs have warned that if the one metre-plus rule stays in place, it will be a disaster for them, because they need to be full to make a profit.... Theatres, cinemas, nightclubs and other venues that rely on full houses to turn a profit are also anxiously awaiting the results of the government review....

"The first major sporting event to take place after June 21 will be the Wimbledon tennis tournament, which starts on June 28, but its organisers have warned the public that ... crowds could be restricted to just 25 per cent of capacity, while players will have to stay in bio-secure hotels and will face fines of £14,000 if they breach Covid-19 security rules.... Football’s FA Cup final on May 15 will take place in front of just 20,000 fans, instead of Wembley’s 90,000 capacity, meaning trials of outdoor sporting events will still be at an early stage by June 21.

"If all legal restrictions are lifted on June 21, the one thing the country surely will not need from then on is Covid Marshals. Yet, councils around the country are advertising jobs for Covid Marshals that do not start until July and will continue until next year.... Their job will be to 'aid and encourage compliance' and to help the public and businesses 'understand regulations and guidance'.... The marshals do not have enforcement powers, and how the public reacts to being challenged by them after legal restrictions have lapsed remains to be seen.

"The Government’s pilots of indoor and outdoor events rely on Covid-19 status certification to allow crowds to return to sport and customers to return to restaurants, theatres and nightclubs. Early pilots of the so-called Events Research Programme are relying on pre-entry testing alone, while later pilots, starting at the end of next month, will attempt to incorporate data on vaccination and acquired immunity, so in other words, vaccine passports.

"The Government has also said it is 'committed to explore whether and how Covid-status certification might be used to reopen our economy', which 'could allow some freedoms to be restored more safely'.... Ministers are reluctant to ban businesses from requiring customers to demonstrate their Covid-19 status, meaning vaccine passports and test for entry are likely to be a feature of everyday life for some time to come.

"The most visible proof that restrictions are over will come when face coverings are finally consigned to history, but that is unlikely to happen on June 21. Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, has stated publicly that he expects face coverings to be necessary next winter, and the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) believes 'baseline measures' such as mask wearing and social distancing might be necessary 'throughout winter 2021/22'.

"The use of face coverings is also the subject of a review. Regardless of whether it recommends that masks should be worn in crowded spaces such as train carriages, it seems likely that the public will either be advised to wear them, or will choose to do so, as the gradual return to normality leads to an increase in commuting, shopping and tightly-packed audiences."

Read more:

Monday, April 26, 2021

Media report 10,000 at UK lockdown protest

Six arrested amid massive anti-lockdown protests in London | Euronews - Hannah Somerville:

April 25, 2021 - "At least six people have been arrested following a massive protest march against COVID-19 safety measures in London. The Metropolitan Police confirmed that two arrests came during the march itself and four during scuffles between protesters and police officers in London's Hyde Park.

"Up to 10,000 people are thought to have gathered in central London on Saturday for the so-called 'Unite for Freedom' event. Protesters marched through the streets chanting 'Freedom' and 'Take off your mask,' while some carried placards saying 'No to vaccine passports' and 'Lockdowns kill'.

"The demonstration took place amid the gradual easing of lockdown restrictions in England. After months of nationwide lockdown, pubs and restaurants resumed outdoor service on Monday, April 12 together with the re-opening of non-essential shops. Despite the progress, the process is not expected to fully conclude until mid-June at the earliest....  More than 45 million people in the UK have received their first dose of vaccine and 12 million are now fully inoculated.

"The event on Saturday drew crowds from all walks of life, many of whom had travelled to the capital from elsewhere in the UK to take part. Protesters danced and heckled shoppers wearing masks in Oxford Street, while a handful were involved in violent clashes with police. A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said Saturday that no-one was thought to have been arrested, even though some participants had attacked police officers in Hyde Park and according to the force, eight officers were injured.

"In the aftermath, thousands of Britons took to the internet to castigate those who had taken part using the hashtag #IstandwithNHSstaff. Participants called the protests 'despicable' and 'shameful' in a country in which at least 130,000 people are known to have died from COVID-19.

"The divisive incident took place a week and a half before London’s Mayoral election. At least two of the candidates, political commentator Lawrence Fox and Piers Corbyn, the brother of former opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, are known lockdown sceptics.

"Despite the mass flouting of official restrictions and the injuries sustained by police, none of Britain’s most prominent politicians have so far commented on Saturday’s events."

Read more:

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Questioning the Long Covid narrative

We need to start thinking more critically – and speaking more cautiously – about long Covid | Stat - Adam W. Gaffney: 

March 22, 2021 - "What media stories about long Covid ... describe is frightening. Ed Yong, a writer for The Atlantic, has been particularly influential in sculpting this narrative. In 'Long-Haulers Are Redefining Covid-19,' he describes a mysterious syndrome that strikes even those with mild Covid-19, people who never required hospitalization, oxygen, or ventilators, but who never seem to recover. One such individual, he noted, described some five months of 'extreme fatigue, bulging veins, excessive bruising, an erratic heartbeat, short-term memory loss, gynecological problems, sensitivity to light and sounds, and brain fog.' For some of these people, Yong noted, 'months of illness could turn into years of disability'....

"Almost everyone who dies of Covid-19 develops a condition called acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a form of pneumonia.... ARDS can have myriad long-term effects, including physical and cognitive impairments, reduced lung function, mental health problems, and poorer quality of life.... Still, even if these ailments are sometimes acknowledged in media reports of long Covid, most narratives evoke something entirely different: a debilitating syndrome seemingly affecting multiple organ systems for months on end – and perhaps indefinitely – but without any specific diagnosis.... It is also notable that reports often suggest that even those with only mild acute symptoms – or no acute symptoms at all – are at risk....  

"Other reports describe something even more frightening. In October, a New York Times article described a dementia-like illness following a mild infection like this: 'It’s becoming known as Covid brain fog: troubling cognitive symptoms that can include memory loss, confusion, difficulty focusing, dizziness and grasping for everyday words.' Another Times story asserted that an entirely resolved mild infection could cause severe psychosis months later, even leading to thoughts of committing murder. 

"Reporting on long Covid needs to be more cautious for several reasons.

"First, consider that at least some people who identify themselves as having long Covid appear never to have been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus....Yong ... cites a survey of Covid long-haulers in which some two-thirds of them had negative coronavirus antibody tests – blood tests that reveal prior SARS-CoV-2 infection. Meanwhile, a survey organized by a group of self-identified long Covid patients that recruited participants from online support groups reported in late December 2020 that around two-thirds of those surveyed who had undergone blood testing reported negative results.... But ... study after study has found that antibodies remain positive in a majority of people with confirmed infections for many months. So it’s highly probable that some or many long-haulers who were never diagnosed using PCR testing in the acute phase and who also have negative antibody tests are 'true negatives'....

"[I]f some proportion of long Covid patients were never infected with SARS-COV-2, it shows that it’s possible for anyone to misattribute chronic symptoms to this virus.... But what’s more notable is that the late-December survey also found virtually no difference in the long-haul symptom burden between those with and without antibody evidence of prior SARS-CoV-2 infection (or any positive test), which undercuts the likelihood of a causative role for SARS-CoV-2 as the predominant driver of chronic symptoms in that cohort. After all, the symptoms reported as consistent with long Covid are associated with many conditions.... 

"Add to that the fact that the past year has produced skyrocketing levels of social anguish and mental emotional distress.... [T]here’s no question that mental suffering can produce physical suffering. A New England Journal of Medicine report showed that, across multiple continents, about half of people with depression also had unexplained physical symptoms, which often predominated over their mental ones. Sleeping problems, physical and mental slowing, persistent fatigue, and concentration problems (aka 'brain fog') are among the actual criteria for major depression in the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V).

"The sad truth is that we are living through a time of incredible trauma, sorrow, and hardship. The loved ones of more than 500,000 Americans who have died of Covid-19 are in mourning. Tens of millions have lost their jobs. This has been a period of prolonged social isolation with no obvious parallel in history. We should expect a surge in both mental anguish and physical suffering that, while connected to the once-in-a-century pandemic, will not always be directly connected to SARS-COV-2 itself....

"[T]he suffering described by long Covid patients is debilitating and real ... [and] every such patient deserves careful, empathetic evaluation and appropriate treatment and referrals.... And rigorous research into the long-term effects of Covid-19 must continue. But at the same time we need to start thinking more critically — and speaking a bit more cautiously — about long Covid."

Read more: 

Saturday, April 24, 2021

The Free World Died of Covid-19

The Free World Died of Covid-19 | The Dossier, Substack - Jordan Schachtel:

April 13, 2021 - "The Free World is a term that was originally used to describe the Allied powers during WWII, but it is most applicable here when discussing what united the anti-Soviet bloc to the United States during the Cold War. It was ... 'Western world' values of free speech, free media, the freedom of assembly, and freedom of association that united our sovereign states against the evils of Communism.

"Covid Mania has turned the world’s sovereign states into one tyranny after another. And the authoritarian forces of the world won this second 'Cold War' against its citizens without firing a shot. Some appear to be under the impression that the ruling class, which just finished the fastest rollup of power in human history, will simply return these stolen liberties when the 'national emergency' comes to an end. I’m not particularly convinced that this is the case. As John Adams once said, 'But a Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.

"In the United States, our federalist system allows for pockets of freedom in places like Florida, Texas, South Dakota and the like. But dare to protest in the Nation’s Capital today and you’ll quickly find yourself on an FBI watchlist, and almost certainly, with a future date in our nation’s kangaroo court system.... Our nation is no longer united behind these “Free World” concepts, and they are now only considered virtuous ideas in the aforementioned pockets of freedom in America. In the rest of the country, it has been made crystal clear that your rights do not supersede a disease with a 99.8% recovery rate....

"The United Kingdom has placed its citizens under indefinite confinement. Their “Covid restrictions” have lasted well over a year, and there is no end in sight.

"Canada, which has also been under a strict lockdown for over a year, has mutilated the free press while simultaneously transforming into a Chinese state colony. Under the 'leadership' of Justin Trudeau, Canada has essentially outlawed freedom of movement, free speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of assembly in the name of a virus.

"New Zealand, another nation that is cozying up to Beijing, is committed to a 'Zero Covid' self-siege that has blockaded the island nation from the world for over a year. Citizens who test positive for Covid-19 are forcibly sent to quarantine camps. The government has recently considered legislation punishing people for the act of acquiring Covid-19.

"States in Australia have implemented some of the most intrusive lockdowns in the world. In Victoria, lockdowns meant citizens were only allowed to leave their homes for one hour a day, and they were not allowed to travel outside of a certain radius from their homes. The act of protesting is illegal, and it will be met by riot police.... 

"Germany, France, and Italy just entered another round of rights-restricting lockdowns, and countless more “Free World” nations continue chipping away at personal freedoms....

"The Free World, as a united force, was indeed very sick for the better part of the 21st century, but it has finally died from Covid-19. The concept only lives on in our imaginations and memories. The Covid era has exposed that these values that supposedly united the West are nothing more than a facade."

Read more:

Friday, April 23, 2021

NY patients win court battles to use ivermectin

Ivermectin Wins in Court Again: For Human Rights | Deseret News - Justus R. Hope, MD:

Apr 19, 2021 - "One dose of Ivermectin was all it took to get 81-year-old John Swanson off the ventilator. John’s wife Sandra could not believe it. His story is remarkably similar to other cases.... 

"Ralph Lorigo is the lawyer who now has won three court orders forcing New York hospitals to administer Ivermectin to dying patients. Incredibly, these three hospitals and their lawyers fought against the patients, arguing they did not have the right to receive the drug despite a valid prescription written by their doctors. In essence, the argument was that they did not have the right to try a potentially life-saving medication.

"In each of the three cases, the New York State Supreme Court Justices sided with the patient, and in each of the three cases, the patients made near-miraculous recoveries after the Ivermectin was given. In each case, these patients were in the Intensive Care Unit on ventilators, unable to breathe on their own, and universally, after the drug was given, they rapidly improved and were able to breathe on their own.

"Judith Smentkiewicz made national news in January when her family hired Lorigo after the hospital refused a fourth dose of Ivermectin..... Attorney Lorigo and his associate Jon F. Minear reported, 'This lady was on a ventilator, literally on her deathbed, before she was given this drug. As far as we’re concerned, the judge’s order saved this woman’s life.'

"The family of Glenna "Sue" Dickinson happened to see a newspaper article of Judith's remarkable story, and they decided to try Ivermectin as well. Sue Dickinson, 65, contracted COVID-19 on January 7, 2021 ...  and was placed on a ventilator on January 17. The hospital staff advised that her chances of survival were about 40 percent [but] refused to give Sue the Ivermectin. Lorigo and Minear  sought an injunction. State Supreme Court Justice Frank Caruso ordered the hospital to provide the Ivermectin. Dickinson, like Swanson, and Smentkiewicz, came off the ventilator and improved as well.... 

"Ivermectin is widely used by physicians, as there are now 51 studies from around the world, with 50 showing clear benefit and one showing neutral.... Experts worldwide have called for the global and systematic use of Ivermectin to prevent and treat COVID-19. Physicians have recently written about a profit motive by regulatory agencies and Big Pharma to block cheap, safe, and effective treatments like Ivermectin and HCQ [hydroxychloroquine] in favor of ... vaccines and medicines like Remdesivir.... Remdesivir cost[s] $3,100 per dose [while] Ivermectin costs about $2 per dose. It is safer than Tylenol or most vitamins, says Dr. Pierre Kory of the FLCCC Alliance, a group of expert physicians promoting access and information through a nonprofit organization. Dr. Kory and Mr. Lorigo have teamed up to help other hospitalized patients gain access to the life-saving drug....

"The big problem is that information promoting Ivermectin is often censored or silenced as quickly as it is provided. Facebook, Reddit,, YouTube, and others have recently taken down posts on Ivermectin citing violation of 'community standards.'  Physicians who employ good judgment and scientific studies are considered violators, as well as those who publish factual accounts of Ivermectin-based recovery stories. A recent article exposed the link between large pharmaceutical corporations and government regulatory agencies who have financial entanglements and massive conflicts of interest.

"The disinformation campaign is evident with the publication of articles attempting to cast Ivermectin in a false light, referring to it as an 'animal dewormer' that might be a 'bad idea' for humans to use. In reality, many drugs are common to both humans and animals for treatment, including antibiotics, antifungals, and antiparasitic agents....

"Satoshi Omura won the 2015 Nobel Prize in Medicine for his discoveries leading to the development of Ivermectin. In his praise for Ivermectin and its potential to help in the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Omura recently compared Ivermectin to Penicillin, 'one of the greatest discoveries of the twentieth century'.... Ivermectin has already been adopted by 25 percent of the world’s countries to prevent and treat COVID-19.... However, censorship, corruption, hospital lawyers, and disinformation campaigns have continued to stand in the way of its widespread acceptance in the United States. Many have never even heard of it.

"Ivermectin recently won in court in South Africa after a protracted legal battle. Ralph Lorigo has now won his third State Supreme Court Injunction in New York. Will legal strategies also be required in the US to gain FDA approval for Ivermectin to treat COVID-19?"

Read more:

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Can you catch Covid from an empty washroom?

by George J. Dance

Can you actually catch Covid from being alone in a public washroom? It could happen; at least, that is the newest scare story making the rounds in Canada. Here is a sample, which made it onto our national news: 

Don't linger after you flush: Public toilets may spread COVID-19 aerosols, study finds | CTV News - Nicole Bogart:

April 20, 2021 - "Though a public washroom isn’t typically the kind of place you want to spend a lot of time in, new research exploring COVID-19 transmission suggests you may not want to linger after flushing a public toilet. A team of scientists from Florida Atlantic University's College of Engineering and Computer Science conducted a series of tests investigating the spread of microbe-containing aerosol droplets generated from flushing a toilet or a urinal in a public restroom. Using a particle counter to measure the size and number of droplets generated upon flushing, researchers found that the droplets were detected at heights of up to five feet (1.5 metres) for 20 seconds or longer after flushing. Worse yet, researchers detected a smaller number of droplets in the air even when the toilet was flushed with a closed lid, suggesting that aerosol droplets can escape through small gaps between the cover and the seat.

"After about three hours of tests involving more than 100 flushes, we found a substantial increase in the measured aerosol levels in the ambient environment with the total number of droplets generated in each flushing test ranging up to the tens of thousands," study co-author Siddhartha Verma said in a press release issued Tuesday. Both the toilet and urinal generated large quantities of droplets smaller than three micrometers in size, posing a significant transmission risk if they contain infectious microorganisms. Due to their small size, these droplets can remain suspended for a long time."

Read more:

That is scary, especially for senior citizens such as myself. Not only are we more vulnerable to severe disease or even death from Covid, but we are also more likely, when we go to the mall, to have to use the public washroom. I cannot remember the last time that I went to the local mall and did not have to, What do I need to do to to protect myself from this new threat? Should I simply stop going (in either sense)? Should I start wearing adult diapers? Or is it enough to just never flush? 

Or is it even a risk worth worrying about? How likely is there to be Covid in the toilet? I am no virologist, so I can only try to estimate the risk; but I cannot see much of one. 

First, there is no risk to me of catching Covid if I already have it; and there is no way I could be depositing Covid in the toilet unless I already had it. Therefore the only danger to me is if an infected person had previously flushed. How long previously? We are told that the aerosols can be present for "a long time," but the only time actually given is "20 seconds or more." How much more? I actually doubt that it is more than a minute; if the aerosols persisted for at least 60 seconds, I suspect that the researchers would have used that higher figure instead.

But assuming the little devils last long enough in water to infect the next user: how could they get into it in the first place? They would have to be in feces and urine. They certainly couldn't reproduce). Before that, they had to have passed through someone's stomach; not the most hospitable environment for living things. Even if a few made it through, they could not have been reproducing at the same time; so the number out would always be smaller than the number going in. 

And how would they get in someone's stomach in the first place? Sars-Cov-2, remember, is a respiratory virus; and respiratory viruses do not live and reproduce in the stomach. There could be stray virus on some food that one ate, but normal sanitary procedures should eliminate that possibility. Without evidence to the contrary, I doubt that the coronavirus survives being cooked. 

Of course, I am simply using reason here; and reason is a weak tool, in the lack of sufficient data to form true premises. So let us look for more facts. 

The article does say that scientists have discovered "small numbers of viruses in urine and stool samples." That is good to learn; a small amount of virus may survive a trip in feces as well as in water (though it may not actually be live virus; not enough information is given). But, again, it cannot reproduce there. So we are talking about a small number of viruses in urine or feces, of which a smaller number transfer to the toilet water, of which an even smaller number are ejected into the air in the form of aerosols. The all-important question, is: are these small amounts enough to infect someone in the few minutes it takes to use a washroom? Just how much of the virus is there in those aerosols? Surprisingly, the study does not say; because, it turns out, the scientists did not look for coronavirus:       

However, researchers did not analyze the aerosol droplets found in the restroom. Therefore, it is unclear whether COVID-19 aerosols were found in the sampling.

Wait, what? The researchers did not look for Covid aerosols. Therefore they did not find any. It is unclear whether there were any; but it is certainly clear enough that none were found. 

And that is enough to form an opinion on the article. The study on which it was based seems sound enough, but that study proved only that there are aerosols in washrooms; which may be a problem in public schools, where the children have to use the washroom en masse at recess. But the idea behind the news report, that anyone whomsoever is at risk of contacting Covid and possibly dying just from using an otherwise empty washroom, sounds full of – well, of whatever toilets get full of. 

Read study here:

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

7 U.S. governors say no to vaccine passports

Governor Kristi Noem bans “vaccine passports” in South Dakota | KCRG - Austin Goss"

Apr. 21, 2021 - "In an executive order issued Tuesday evening, Governor Kristi Noem banned government entities in South Dakota from requiring 'vaccine passports'.... In the executive order, Noem bans any government entity, to include local governments, within the state from requiring vaccine passports. Noem says that requiring vaccine passports could ultimately lead to 'improper disclosure of private health information.'

"'I’m going to do everything I can to protect people from getting mandates like this out of governments,' Noem [earlier in April].... 'This kind of provision is a fundamental threat to our freedoms.'"

Read more:

Ducey bans ‘vaccine passport’ use by Arizona governments | Arizona Mirror - Jerod MacDonald-Evoy:

April 19, 2021 - "Gov. Doug Ducey on Monday banned state and local governments from requiring a 'vaccine passport' to receive service or enter an area.Ducey’s executive order also applies to any business that has a government contract, and bars them from requiring any customer to provide information on their vaccination status to receive any government services they provide. The executive order does allow for hospitals, nursing homes and other health care facilities to ask about documentation of a visitor’s, patient’s, employee’s or resident’s vaccination status. Universities, child care centers, home schools and other schools are also exempt. The executive order does not apply to private businesses. 

"'The residents of our state should not be required by the government to share their private medical information,' said Governor Ducey in a press release about the executive order. 'While we strongly recommend all Arizonans get the COVID-19 vaccine, it’s not mandated in our state — and it never will be. Vaccination is up to each individual, not the government.'"

Read more:

Arizona Becomes Sixth State To Ban Coronavirus Vaccine Passports — See The Full List Here | Forbes - Carlie Porterfield:

Apr 19, 2021 - "Ducey['s] ... executive order ... mak[es] Arizona the sixth state to denounce the passes that allow holders to prove they’ve been vaccinated against coronavirus....

"Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte, in isolation after testing positive for coronavirus, signed an executive order April 14 that will ban both the state government and businesses from requiring proof of vaccination to protect 'individual liberty and personal privacy,' though he added he still encourages constituents to receive a vaccine. It’s a sentiment he shares with Idaho Gov. Gov. Brad Little (R) who issued an order April 9 banning state government entities from requiring proof of coronavirus vaccination to receive public services, in which he noted vaccines are the 'best shot at protecting jobs and saving lives.'

"On Tuesday, April 6, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) issued a similar executive order to block Texas state departments and groups that use public funds from issuing vaccine passports or mandating proof of immunization to receive services. On Friday, April 2, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order with an even further reach — under the order, the state government will punish private businesses that opt to require proof of vaccination by barring them from state grants or contracts.

"In February, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox signed a bill into law that bans the Utah state government from requiring or issuing vaccine passports, though private businesses remain free to mandate them for patrons if they wish. Other Republican governors have not issued executive orders regarding vaccine passports, but have indicated they do not support their use, like Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R), Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R).... 

"The White House has pledged it will not pursue a vaccine passport sponsored by the federal government.... The majority of vaccine passports in development are being spearheaded by private companies in hopes it will embolden customers to feel safe traveling and pursuing in-person entertainment again at places like sports arenas, restaurants and live music venues. So far, New York is the only state to launch its own vaccine passport."

Read more:

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Ontario drops plan for random police stops

Ford walks back police powers, playground closures | Brockville Recorder and Times - Canadian Press: 

April 18, 2021 - "Ontario reversed course on sweeping new police powers Saturday, just one day after Premier Doug Ford announced the measures that triggered a swift and furious backlash.

"Officers will no longer have the right to stop any pedestrian or driver to ask why they’re out or request their home address, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said in a written statement on Saturday evening. Instead, she said, police will only be able to stop people who they have reason to believe are participating in an 'organized public event or social gathering'....

"Ford tweeted that another of the measures would also be reversed. 'Ontario’s enhanced restrictions were always intended to stop large gatherings where spread can happen,' Ford said. 'Our regulations will be amended to allow playgrounds'.... In a message to The Recorder and Times, Brockville Mayor Jason Baker said the city called in a crew Saturday to close the playgrounds, and he assumed it will reassign crews on Monday to reopen them.

"Civil libertarians and pundits attacked new anti-pandemic restrictions announced Friday by Ford as misguided, saying the added police powers aimed at enforcing stay-at-home orders were overkill....

"Ahead of the reversal, large and small police forces across the province said they had no intention of exercising their newfound powers. Brockville Police Chief Scott Fraser, shortly after a conference call with provincial officials following Ford’s initial announcement Friday, said the city police force would develop a 'common sense approach' and officers clearly wouldn’t be stopping every car they see. And on Saturday, the Gananoque Police Service said it ... 'will not be doing random stops of people or vehicles'.

"Andrew Fletcher, chief of South Simcoe police, said officers would only act on complaints. Police forces from Thunder Bay to Ottawa to Toronto to London and Woodstock expressed similar positions.... 'The HRPS will NOT be randomly stopping vehicles for no reason during the pandemic or afterwards (RIDE being an exception),' Halton police Chief Steve Tanner tweeted before the province walked back the regulations.

"The closing of outdoor spaces, meanwhile, puzzled many public health experts who said the measures didn’t make sense. 'Outdoor activities are vital for mental and physical health, especially with stay-at-home orders,' Dr. Isaac Bogoch, who sits on the province’s COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force, said in a tweet. 'Science is clear: Outdoor COVID transmission is extremely rare.'"

"The new restrictions, including a two-week extension to the province’s stay-at-home order until May 20, were announced amid dire warnings from government scientific advisers that the pandemic was only set to worsen. Other measures include further restrictions on outdoor gatherings and indoor religious services, while recreational facilities such as golf courses are now closed. Ontario intends to shut its borders with Quebec and Manitoba to non-essential travel effective Monday."

Read more:

Monday, April 19, 2021

Human infection trials for Covid approved in UK

Covid-19 ‘Challenge Trial’ Will Purposely Reinfect Adults | Wall Street Journal - Jenny Strasburg:

April 18, 2021 - "University of Oxford scientists plan to reinfect dozens of adult volunteers with the coronavirus in the second U.K. clinical trial to study deliberate Covid-19 infection ... among people who have already recovered from the virus. Such 'human challenge' trials are controversial because they involve intentionally infecting healthy humans, and the U.K. is the only country so far conducting them with Covid-19.... The new trial is focused on probing the boundaries of human immunity and the effects of the virus on the body from the moment of reinfection.... 

"The first Covid-19 challenge study, led by Imperial College London infectious-disease researchers, started in March.... That study received a pledge of more than $45 million from the U.K. government.

"Oxford’s trial is funded by the London-based Wellcome Trust, a healthcare-focused charitable foundation. As many as 64 people aged 18 to 30 years will be quarantined in staggered phases inside Oxford University Hospitals at roughly 17-day intervals, starting as soon as next month, according to Helen McShane, an Oxford vaccinologist who is leading the trial.

"Debates about inoculating humans with live, potent viruses have gone on for centuries. In the late 1700s, British doctor Edward Jenner applied material from cowpox and smallpox lesions to children and adults and recorded the reactions. The now-famous experiments paved the way for modern vaccines.

"But in the pandemic, the U.S. and other countries have steered clear of purposely infecting healthy people with the coronavirus. Critics argue the risks aren’t justified, given the broad presence of naturally circulating virus and the success of vaccines already available. What’s more, some say newer variants of the virus make the older strain used in the U.K. challenge trials less relevant....

"Challenge-trial proponents argue there is no substitute for the precision of controlled studies. They have been used for decades to study diseases including typhoid, malaria and tuberculosis and to develop vaccines. With Covid-19, Prof. McShane told journalists in a briefing last week, 'We don’t know whether someone has not been infected because they haven’t been exposed or [because] they have protective immunity.' Controlling exposure will help with those questions, she said.

"The first phase of the Oxford-led trials will test virus dosages required for reinfection.... Phase two will chart immune response, including protection via prior infection. No vaccines will be used in either phase. Volunteers will be tracked for a year."

Read more:

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Is disinfectant mania finally ending?

Has the Era of Overzealous Cleaning Finally Come to an End? New York Times - Emily Anthes: 

April 8, 2021 - "When the coronavirus began to spread in the United States last spring, many experts warned of the danger posed by surfaces. Researchers reported that the virus could survive for days on plastic or stainless steel, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [C.D.C.] advised that if someone touched one of these contaminated surfaces — and then touched their eyes, nose or mouth — they could become infected. Americans responded in kind, wiping down groceries, quarantining mail and clearing drugstore shelves of Clorox wipes. Facebook closed two of its offices for a 'deep cleaning.' New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority began disinfecting subway cars every night.

"But the era of 'hygiene theater' may have come to an unofficial end this week, when the C.D.C. updated its surface cleaning guidelines and noted that the risk of contracting the virus from touching a contaminated surface was less than 1 in 10,000. 'People can be affected with the virus that causes Covid-19 through contact with contaminated surfaces and objects,' Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the C.D.C., said at a White House briefing on Monday. 'However, evidence has demonstrated that the risk by this route of infection of transmission is actually low.'

"'Finally,' said Linsey Marr, an expert on airborne viruses at Virginia Tech. 'We’ve known this for a long time and yet people are still focusing so much on surface cleaning.' She added, 'There’s really no evidence that anyone has ever gotten Covid-19 by touching a contaminated surface'....

"'The scientific basis for all this concern about surfaces is very slim — slim to none,' said Emanuel Goldman, a microbiologist at Rutgers University, who wrote last summer that the risk of surface transmission had been overblown. 'This is a virus you get by breathing. It’s not a virus you get by touching'....

"'The most important part of this update is that they’re clearly communicating to the public the correct, low risk from surfaces, which is not a message that has been clearly communicated for the past year,' said Joseph Allen, a building safety expert at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Catching the virus from surfaces ... requires many things to go wrong: a lot of fresh, infectious viral particles to be deposited on a surface, and then for a relatively large quantity of them to be quickly transferred to someone’s hand and then to their face. 'Presence on a surface does not equal risk,' Dr. Allen said.

"In most cases, cleaning with simple soap and water — in addition to hand-washing and mask-wearing — is enough to keep the odds of surface transmission low, the C.D.C.’s updated cleaning guidelines say. In most everyday scenarios and environments, people do not need to use chemical disinfectants, the agency notes.... 'Disinfection is only recommended in indoor settings — schools and homes — where there has been a suspected or confirmed case of Covid-19 within the last 24 hours,' Dr. Walensky said during the White House briefing. 'Also, in most cases, fogging, fumigation and wide-area or electrostatic spraying is not recommended as a primary method of disinfection and has several safety risks to consider'... [T]he new cleaning guidelines do not apply to health care facilities, which may require more intensive cleaning and disinfection....

"'This should be the end of deep cleaning,” Dr. Allen said, noting that the misplaced focus on surfaces has had real costs. 'It has led to closed playgrounds, it has led to taking nets off basketball courts, it has led to quarantining books in the library. It has led to entire missed school days for deep cleaning. It has led to not being able to share a pencil. So that’s all that hygiene theater, and it’s a direct result of not properly classifying surface transmission as low risk.'"

Read more:

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Modelling the effect of lockdowns

Covid and the lockdown effect: a look at the evidence | The Spectator - Simon Wood: 

April 14, 2021 - "What forces Covid into reverse? To many, the obvious answer is lockdown.... It’s often said that all else failed. The Prime Minister said on Tuesday that lockdown, far more than vaccines, explains the fall in hospitalisations, deaths and infections. But how sure are we that only lockdown caused these falls — in the first, second and third wave? Or were other interventions, plus people’s spontaneous reactions to rising cases, enough to get R below one?...

"Let’s start with the events of last March. Imperial’s Neil Ferguson, whose modelling inspired the government’s decision to go into lockdown in March, told MPs in June that ‘had we introduced lockdown measures a week earlier, we would have reduced the final death toll by at least a half’. Last December, a paper called Report 41 was published by Imperial College along these lines. It said: 'Among control measures implemented, only national lockdown brought the reproduction number [the "R number"] below 1 consistently. Introduced one week earlier, it could have reduced first wave deaths from 36,700 to 15,700'....

"Ferguson’s Imperial team had developed a simple model of the spread of Covid-19 and fitted it to data on the daily deaths ... to tell them how, when and by how much the R number changed.... [T]he Imperial team’s model assumed that they knew when and how R was changing. They only needed the data to tell them by how much it changed. I repeated Imperial’s analysis, but with one important difference: the data were used to also determine when and how R changed. The Imperial model then gives a very different result. It suggests that R was already below 1 before lockdown. If that is the case then, rather than surging, new infections were already in decline.... I also used a different approach, bypassing the Imperial model altogether, to directly estimate the daily number of new fatal infections from the data on daily deaths and fatal disease duration. This direct approach also strongly suggests that infections were in substantial decline before lockdown, and that R was already below one. The graph below shows what this second approach found around the time of the first lockdown.

"The same approach can be used again at the second and third lockdowns. Before the second lockdown it was argued that the tier system was ineffective and that cases were surging. But the reconstructions suggest that fatal infections — and by implication Covid infections generally — were not surging. They were in decline having peaked earlier. The third peak is between Christmas and New Year.... It is possibly worth noting that although the estimated fatal infections were in retreat before each lockdown, the daily deaths were surging each time that a lockdown was called. The psychological pressure that this puts on the decision makers is obvious....

"This brings us back to Imperial’s Report 41.... With professor Ernst Wit of Università della Svizzera Italiana in Switzerland, I repeated the Report 41 analysis as reported in a pre-print (a not yet peer-reviewed study) on medRxiv. The Report 41 assumptions around the first lockdown are even more restrictive than in Imperial’s earlier study, and we again replaced them with an approach that allows the data to tell us when and how R changed, as well as by how much. Because far more data are involved this time, the scope for our own assumptions to bias our results is lessened, but we nonetheless took an approach designed to minimise such problems.

"As we went through Report 41 we also noticed some unusual things: Imperial’s model was using key input measures that were shorter than the times given in the published papers cited as sources.

  • The time Imperial used from infection to symptoms (the ‘incubation period’). It’s stated as 4.6 days, citing Lauer et al. But that study says ‘the estimated mean incubation period was 5.5 days.’ A careful subsequent analysis by McAloon et al combining several studies, including Lauer et al, gives 5.8 days.
  • The time Imperial gave from symptoms to hospitalisation. Imperial give a mean of 4 days, citing Docherty et al. But that paper gives 4 days as the median time. For the model they use, the corresponding mean days from onset to hospital is 6, not 4.

These two changes subtract three days from the model time between Covid infection and hospitalisation, compared to the values given in the cited literature. This is not a small issue if so much is to be made about every day mattering. Two other points from Imperial’s Report 41 were troubling:

  • The model structure forced the average time from infection to infection to be quite a bit longer than the times reported in the literature.
  • The model-fitting appeared to be set up in a way that attributed unusually low weight to the actual data, relative to assumptions built into the model.

"We tried to correct each of these four issues. The resulting model and analysis are very far from perfect, but we think that the results can give a somewhat more accurate picture of what the data imply than the original. Below is the picture we got for infections, by region and in total, around the time of first lockdown. Again the results imply that infections were in retreat before lockdown was called....

"So even taking the most negative view of our work, and the most positive view of the Imperial study, it is hard to see the latter as providing robust evidence for lockdown having caused R to drop below 1. Let alone as providing a reasonable basis on which to compute the number of lives that an earlier lockdown might have saved.  Even if our study’s assumptions are no better than Imperial’s, just different (which we would dispute), we have clearly shown that the Report 41 results are too strongly dependent on the model assumptions to provide reasonable evidence for the life-saving potential of earlier lockdowns claimed in the press."

Read more:

Read study here: