Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Ontario judge sidesteps Charter challenge to province's Covid law

 'BBQ Rebellion' gets turned away from court, delaying face-off over COVID lockdowns | National Post - Adrian Humphreys:

June 28, 2021 - "To the dismay of supporters ... an Ontario judge declined to hear a constitutional challenge of pandemic enforcement mounted by Adam Skelly, who refused to close indoor dining at his Toronto barbecue restaurant during the lockdown. The judicial fizzle came as Skelly and his supporters were expecting a titanic face-off during two days of scheduled court time, for which they prepared a full-throttle attack on lockdowns, masks, COVID testing, hospitalization statistics and the danger of the virus itself.

"Skelly had put his food business on the back burner for six months to prepare for the constitutional challenge, supported by a war chest of more than $300,000 raised through a GoFundMe campaign. Skelly said he had 'hired and fired six lawyers' before settling on his team, and assembled six witnesses to offer expert opinion, all of them with PhDs or medical degrees, including Dr. Joel Kettner, a former chief medical officer of health for Manitoba.... In November 2020, Skelly’s restaurant in west Toronto became a high-profile flashpoint when he defied orders to close indoor dining.... Anti-lockdown protesters clashed with police, who arrived in large numbers to enforce compliance. Skelly ... maintains the order and the government’s response were unjustified and unconstitutional.... He refers to it as Canada’s most important constitutional case.

"People logging in to watch the online hearing quickly exceeded the maximum capacity of 500 long before court started, meaning there wasn’t room for the judge or the province’s lead lawyer to be let into the hearing.... A plea from the court registrar for some to volunteer to leave eventually allowed the judicial participants in, and for the hearing to convene.

"Zachary Green, representing the province of Ontario, argued there was no procedural basis to entertain Skelly’s constitutional objections. He said Skelly has not embarked on any court application claiming relief against the province, he has only contested Ontario’s motion against him and his restaurant. Green said that violates established rules of procedure.... 'Indeed, they are vexatious,' the government’s court filing says.

"Michael Swinwood, representing Skelly, replied that the constitutional element of Skelly’s defence has been clear from the start. If the province objected to his constitutional questions, they should have asked a judge to strike them out of their reply to the court.... Pre-trial procedures, including judicial case management conferences and the examination and cross-examination of expert witnesses, went ahead arguing the wider constitutional issues without any complaint or objection from the province, he said. In court materials, Swinwood said the government’s responses to COVID-19 were not based on scientific principles or respect for human rights and are more intrusive than available alternatives.

"Judge Jasmine Akbarali, of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, briefly adjourned court to deliberate before returning with her verdict. 'I regret to say, I do not think I have the jurisdiction to proceed to deal with these issues on their merits today,' she said. 'I do not think the hearing has been constituted in such a way to give me that jurisdiction, and it is in nobody’s interest to go ahead with the two-day hearing that is easily vulnerable on appeal on the basis that I didn’t have jurisdiction.' Written reasons were to be issued later....

"After court, Skelly’s lawyer expressed dissatisfaction with the outcome. 'The courts have no appetite for constitutional challenges to COVID-19 lockdowns and protocols,' Swinwood told National Post. 'Technical procedure is to rule over substance. Our freedoms are in peril and the court refused to take jurisdiction over the matter despite the rules that are designed to be flexible so that serious matters can be heard and not summarily dealt with. There is something deeply amiss,” he said.

"Green deferred to the Ministry of the Attorney General’s spokesman for comment on the case. The ministry declined to comment, 'as this matter is before the court,' said spokesman Brian Gray.... The matter is expected to return to court at a later date, once a constitutional application is filed in the court."

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Tuesday, June 29, 2021

New lockdowns across 'Covid Zero' Australia

Parts of Australia under new Covid lockdown after cases of Delta variant | The Guardian - Nino Bucci & Elias Visontay:

28 Jun 28, 2021 - "Australia is grappling with several outbreaks of the highly contagious Delta variant of coronavirus, with a wave of restrictions rolling across the country and plunging some cities into lockdown for the first time since the pandemic began. Residents of every state and territory in the country – except the island state of Tasmania – are again living under restrictions ranging from full-blown lockdowns in Sydney, Darwin and Perth, to mask mandates in some indoor settings in Adelaide and Canberra....

"On Monday the prime minister, Scott Morrison, met state and territory leaders and agreed on a raft of new measures ... including even more stringent quarantine rules, as well as a no-fault indemnity scheme for all local doctors administering Covid vaccines. The scheme in effect opens the door for Australians under 40 to now receive the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine if they request it.... Australians under 40 have so far been shut out from the Covid vaccine rollout as a result of concerns over blood clotting and a shortage of vaccines besides locally produced AstraZeneca jabs, in which the government has invested heavily....

"The Northern Territory chief minister, Michael Gunner, ... decided to extend Darwin’s first lockdown for a further three days to deal with an outbreak of two cases.... In South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory, restrictions were introduced despite neither jurisdiction having recorded a case. In the latter, measures also had to be announced to limit panic-buying of household items such as toilet paper."
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Australia Covid lockdowns spread amid confusion over vaccine advice | The Guardian - Helen Sullivan:

June 29, 2021 - "Frustration is mounting in Australia over low vaccination rates and changing advice on the AstraZeneca jab after outbreaks of the highly contagious Delta variant sent more parts of the country into lockdown. The outbreaks have grown to about 150 cases, and have forced lockdowns in four major cities and renewed restrictions in several others. Queensland imposed a snap three-day lockdown in its capital, Brisbane, and some neighbouring regions from Tuesday evening. Perth, the capital of Western Australia, began a four-day lockdown on Tuesday, joining Sydney and Darwin.... 

"Australia closed its borders in March 2020 and has strict two-week hotel quarantine requirements for international arrivals. Melbourne, in Victoria, endured one of the world’s strictest, longest lockdowns in 2020. But with less than 5% of the population fully vaccinated, Australia is lagging far behind almost every other developed country.... On Monday night, the prime minister, Scott Morrison, widened the guidance on the AstraZeneca vaccine.... However, the president of the Australian Medical Association, Dr Omar Khorshid, said on Tuesday said he ... did not endorse the prime minister’s announcement.... 

"[M]ore than 20 million Australians, or about 80% of the population, faced lockdown and restrictions – for Darwin, the first lockdown since the pandemic began."
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As the Delta variant spreads, Australian experts say maintaining 'COVID zero' means lockdowns until vaccination rate improves | ABC (Australian Broadcasting Co.) - Nick Sas & Michael Slezak:

June 28, 2021 - "UNSW epidemiologist Mary-Louise McLaws ... a World Health Organization advisor, is one of a multitude of infectious disease experts imploring governments to act strong and act fast with the Delta variant.... As Australia remains committed to COVID-zero, experts say outbreaks — and the hard-nosed government response — look set to continue until at least the latter half of the year.... 

"According to Professor McLaws, with the much more transmissible variant and low vaccination rates, there was no possibility of easing lockdowns while there were any cases in a city.... 'With Delta, you’ve got to go for zero,' she said. 'I fully appreciate that lockdowns are horrible, they are the least acceptable approach to control.' But she said there were few other options....

"Catherine Bennett, the head of epidemiology at Deakin University, told ABC Radio that Australia was increasingly reaching the point where maintaining COVID zero was 'going to be difficult'."
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Monday, June 28, 2021

Weekend of lockdown protests in London UK

Tens of thousands of anti-lockdown protesters march on London in biggest demo yet - with signs demanding 'arrest Matt Hancock' after he was caught cheating while preaching Covid rules to the rest of UK | Mail Online - Kate Dennett:

June 26, 2021 - "Tens of thousands of anti-lockdown protesters marched through central London and towards No10 today.... Anti-lockdown protesters were seen marching along through the capital before descending on Downing Street on Saturday as they called for 'freedom' and the end to all Covid lockdown regulations after Freedom Day was delayed from June 21. 

"As well as demanding the end to lockdown, protesters brandished placards that demanded police 'arrest Matt Hancock' after he was caught breaching Covid safety regulations by kissing his married aide - despite asking the rest of the country to follow the strict restrictions.... The crowds lobbed hundreds of tennis balls with 'not very nice' messages written on them towards the Houses of Parliament before gathering on Downing Street, where they started chanting 'shame on you' and pointing towards Number 10, followed by prolonged booing.

"Tens of thousands of protesters had earlier marched through Oxford Street, Regent Street, Hyde Park and Northumberland Avenue as they held placards reading 'the Boris variant', 'no to Covid vaccine' and 'no to Covid passport'."
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No laughing gas matter! Revellers inflate balloons as tens of thousands dance through London in protest over continued closure of UK's night clubs and music venues | Mail Online - Milly Vincent:

June 27, 2021 - "Tens of thousands turned out to party in protest against the perceived Government disregard for the live music industry during covid, in central London this afternoon. Crowds blocked Regent Street during the FreedomToDance march organised by Save Our Scene, demonstrating against the ongoing covid restrictions that are keeping nightclubs and music venues closed in order to stop the spread of the virus.

"The lively protest saw open-sided trucks rigged with speakers providing a mobile club atmosphere for the punters as they poured out onto the streets without masks to protest against coronavirus restrictions on nightlife. Young protestors were seen puffing on balloons as they walked along in the festival-feel crowd on one of London's busiest shopping streets. Others were seen brandishing signs reading 'let the music play', 'music is medicine' and 'everybody's free to feel good, but not dance'."
Read more:

Video courtesy

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Lockdowns associated with more excess deaths

COVID Lockdowns Not Working: Study Reveals How Shelter-In-Place Policies Linked To ‘Excess Deaths’ | Christianity Today - Olivia Cavallaro:

June 23, 2021 - "Lockdowns or shelter-in-place (SIP) mandates did little to prevent 'excess deaths.' [higher deaths than  what would be expected from past years' experience - gd] That is the conclusion that economists from the University of Southern California and the RAND Corporation came to following a study evaluating the net impact of SIP mandates on 'excess death' data from the U.S. and 43 countries worldwide.

"The researchers analyzed excess deaths or excess mortality by observing the number of deaths versus an expected number of deaths shown by statistical models. 'We use an event study framework to quantify changes in the number of excess deaths after the implementation of a SIP policy,' the researchers wrote in a working paper published at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), as reported by the Epoch Times. 'We find that following the implementation of SIP policies, excess mortality increases.'

"After a thorough investigation into data from the United States and all 43 countries in the study, the researchers came to the conclusion that they '[failed] to find that SIP policies saved lives. To the contrary, we find a positive association between SIP policies and excess deaths.'

"The researchers said that they did not find lowered excess deaths in countries and U.S. states that implemented lockdowns or shelter-in-place policies earlier, which made such mandates longer to operate. They added that they "failed to observe differences in excess death trends before and after the implementation of SIP policies based on pre-SIP COVID-19 death rates.'

"The economists said that while there was evidence that showed shelter-in-place policies helped slow the spread of COVID early in the pandemic, more recent studies revealed that people changed their behavior according to the changing 'dynamics of the outbreak' and not the policies of the government. Such recent studies showed that people 'changed behavior in response to the severity of the pandemic and the enactment of SIP policy implementation lagged this individual behavior change,' the researchers wrote....

"In Canada, some leaders are also against lockdowns, with retired Lieutenant Colonel and former head of Emergency Management Alberta David Redman telling the Lethbridge Herald that non-pharmaceutical intervention or NPIs, which are also known as lockdowns and shelter-in-place policies was not recommended for the COVID pandemic because it is a 'moderate pandemic, not severe.' Such lockdowns, he believes, should only be recommended 'as a last resort in a severe pandemic only.'

"'When the disease becomes a pandemic - the use of non-pharmaceutical interventions has very low, if any impact on the spread of the disease,' Redman argued.

"After a thorough investigation into data from the United States and all 43 countries in the study, the researchers came to the conclusion that they '[failed] to find that SIP policies saved lives. To the contrary, we find a positive association between SIP policies and excess deaths.'

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Saturday, June 26, 2021

LPNH state conflict takes down LP national Chair

The unraveling of the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire - New Hampshire Bulletin - Annmarie Timmins:

June 22, 2021 - "The war within the state’s Libertarian Party ... played out on Twitter, Facebook, and even on a nationally known podcast. It spurred allegations of data theft and prompted the party chair to secretly register a dueling Libertarian Party with the Secretary of State’s Office. It also led to the resignation Friday of Joe Bishop-Henchman, chair of the Libertarian National Committee. The national party’s regional representative for New Hampshire has also stepped down.... 

"The unraveling of the party is so complicated, several party members responded similarly when asked to explain it: 'How much time have you got?'.... This is an abridged version.

"The pandemic lockdowns ordered by Gov. Chris Sununu last year led a number of Republicans to file liberty-minded legislation seeking to restrain the governor’s emergency powers.... To some New Hampshire Libertarians, the state party did too little to oppose restrictions and champion that liberty-focused legislation. The lockdowns revealed a similar dispute over messaging that has been dividing Libertarians nationally for a few years, said Ben Richards, party member and state organizer of a subgroup within the party called the Mises Caucus.... 

"'The Libertarian Party, according to many people, has been very weak and tepid for many, many years,' Richards said. 'We want to bring the Ron Paul revolution ... to the party.' Richards said that kind of enthusiasm from the Mises Caucus has grown party membership in New Hampshire.... 'They barely had 100 members in the entire party at the state convention in March,' Richards said. 'We’ve brought in close to 30 in just the last few months, and it’s growing'.... Membership is now at about 160 people.

"During the state’s March convention, three members from each viewpoint were elected to the executive committee. Both sides have since accused the other of failing to work together. The committee had become so factionalized by June that Jarvis registered what she considered to be the new official Libertarian party with the state. She wrote new bylaws and membership rules [including a new membership oath - gd]

"Jarvis did not return a request for an interview. During questioning by national party leadership in mid-June, Jarvis said toxic messaging and efforts by other committee members to take complete control of the party led her to quietly register a new Libertarian Party. She said she believed she had the go-ahead from Bishop-Henchman because he had written her a letter recognizing her as the head of the official state party. She also acknowledged removing party property from its Manchester storage shed, and locking the rest of the state party’s executive committee out of its website and social media accounts.

"Nolan Pelletier, then the vice chair of the committee, ... filed a police report for the items missing from the storage shed, and Richards started an online fundraiser to pay for what they expected would be a drawn-out fight to reclaim their property and online access. Jarvis has since returned the items and access to the online accounts, Pelletier said. Richards said he has refunded the donations to the defense fund.

"What had been a state-level squabble led to national implications late last week when the national party leadership had to decide which of the two Libertarian parties to recognize as its affiliate. The vote played out over two days on a publicly available email thread that at times became petty.... The vote to 'disaffiliate' the long-standing state party did not go as Jarvis had hoped. She has not submitted a resignation letter, Pelletier said, but she had said she’d resign if she lost. 

"Pelletier is now acting [state] chair. He’s turned his attention to PorcFest and the party’s goal of registering loads of new members and thinks this flap may be a draw."

Read more: 

Friday, June 25, 2021

Trudeau gov't sues to keep info from Parliament

Trudeau suing the House of Commons to keep lab firings secret | Toronto Sun - Brian Lilley: 

June 24, 2021 - "On Wednesday, the Trudeau government filed a lawsuit against the Speaker of the House of Commons in Federal Court. The reason for the lawsuit is to have the court issue an order sealing documents demanded by the House through a vote earlier this month.

"The Commons committee on Canada-China relations has been asking for documents related to the firing of Dr. Xiangguo Qiu and her husband, Keding Cheng from the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg. The pair, along with a group of students from China, were escorted out of the lab in July 2019 and their security clearance was revoked.... In January 2021, it was revealed that the pair were fired after an intervention from CSIS.

"While still at the lab, Dr. Qiu was involved in shipping samples of the Ebola and Henipah viruses to the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China. There was also the sharing of other information between the lab [and] the Wuhan Institute.

"This week the National Post reported Dr. Qiu is listed as one of the inventors on two patents filed in Beijing by the Chinese government in 2017 and 2019 related to the Ebola and Marburg viruses. It is illegal for Canadian civil servants to file a patent outside the country without permission from the minister they report to....

"After [the government] ignoring several requests from the committee to turn over documents, the House of Commons voted last week to order the papers released. When the government refused once again the Commons did something not seen since 1913, summoning civil servant Iain Stewart, the president of the Public Health Agency of Canada, to be denounced by the House and to hear the demand for the papers once again. After refusing to follow the will of Parliament, the Trudeau Liberals are taking Parliament itself and the Speaker to court to keep these documents secret. 

"The government’s claim is that they can’t release the documents due to national security concerns, but ... [t]he committee asked for the papers to be turned over to the Commons Law Clerk who would ensure sensitive information was removed before the documents were released to the committee behind closed doors. This would not result in documents related to national security being posted on a website, but the government still fights to keep everything secret....

"The Trudeau Liberals aren’t looking for compromise, they aren’t looking to work with elected officials. In going to court, the Trudeau government is showing that they want to reject the will of Parliament, to rule without oversight and trample on the longstanding rights and privileges of MPs. If the judge hearing the case knows anything about the law, he’ll reject the government’s request and send the issue back to the Commons where it belongs."

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Thursday, June 24, 2021

John McAfee found dead in Spanish jail cell

Antivirus software creator John McAfee found dead in Spanish jail | CBC News:

Jun 23, 2021  - "John McAfee, the creator of McAfee antivirus software, was found dead in his jail cell near Barcelona in an apparent suicide Wednesday, hours after a Spanish court approved his extradition to the United States to face tax charges punishable by decades in prison, authorities said. 

"The eccentric cryptocurrency promoter and tax opponent whose history of legal troubles spanned from Tennessee to Central America to the Caribbean was discovered at the Brians 2 penitentiary in northeastern Spain. Security personnel tried to revive him, but the jail's medical team finally certified his death, a statement from the regional Catalan government said....

"The statement didn't identify McAfee by name, but said he was a 75-year-old U.S. citizen awaiting extradition to the country. A Catalan government source familiar with the case who was not authorized to be named in media reports confirmed to The Associated Press that it was McAfee.

"Spain's National Court on Monday ruled in favour of extraditing McAfee, 75, who had argued in a hearing earlier this month that the charges against him by prosecutors in Tennessee were politically motivated and that he would spend the rest of his life in prison if he was returned to the U.S. The court's ruling was made public on Wednesday and was open for appeal, with any final extradition order also needing to get approval from the Spanish Cabinet.

"The entrepreneur was arrested last October at Barcelona's international airport. A judge ordered at that time that McAfee should be held in jail while awaiting the outcome of extradition proceedings.

"McAfee had been charged the same month in Tennessee with evading taxes after failing to report income from promoting cryptocurrencies while he did consulting work, made speaking engagements and sold the rights to his life story for a documentary. The criminal charges carried a prison sentence of up to 30 years.

"Nishay Sanan, the Chicago-based attorney defending him on those cases, said by phone that ...  Spanish authorities have not given his legal team a cause of death, and he wants to know if there were video cameras in McAfee's cell or in the prison. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Memphis declined to comment Wednesday."

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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Wuhan lab funder recused from UN Covid inquiry

Peter Daszak, whose EcoHealth Alliance funded the Wuhan Institute's coronavirus experiments on behalf of Anthony Fauci's NIAID, has been removed from a UN commission investigating the pandemic's origins

British doctor Peter Daszak who tried to gag Wuhan lab leak theory is FIRED from UN commission investigating COVID after he was exposed for organizing letter denying leak claim in The Lancet medical journal | Daily Mail - Harriet Alexander:

June 21, 2021 - "British scientist Peter Daszak has been removed from the COVID commission looking at the origins of the pandemic after helping secretly denounce the lab leak theory while failing to mention his close ties to the same facility. 

"The scandal-hit scientist's departure from the UN-backed Lancet commission into the virus's origins was revealed on its website. It added a sentence in brackets under his photo and above his biography, saying 'recused from Commission work on the origins of the pandemic.' No further information on Daszak's departure was given - but he has faced conflict of interest claims after his close ties to the Wuhan Institute of Virology [WIV] were revealed last month.  

"Daszak, 55, president of the New York-based EcoHealth Alliance, was one of 28 experts from around the world asked to analyze how best to respond to the pandemic. The panel comprised leading global figures in public health, economics, philanthropy, diplomacy and politics. It is organized by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network.... On Monday the COVID commission updated their website to show that Daszak was recused.

"Daszak's presence on a number of bodies investigating the origins of COVID has proved controversial because he has links to the Wuhan Institute and its chief researcher Dr Shi Zhengli - dubbed 'Batwoman'.... The conservation charity of which Daszak is the director, EcoHealth Alliance, has funneled money into the lab and research being done by Dr [Shi]....

"[Daszak] helped organize a letter published in prestigious medical journal The Lancet that was signed by 27 scientists, including Daszak himself, and denounced the lab leak claim as a 'conspiracy theory,' and 'nonscientific'....  They wrote at the time: 'We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin. Conspiracy theories do nothing but create fear, rumors, and prejudice that jeopardize our global collaboration in the fight against this virus' [while declaring 'no competing interests' - gd].... When contacted The Lancet’s editor, Dr Richard Horton, about the decision to publish and support the letter, both he and his office declined to comment.... 

"Daszak was part of a group of scientists who in late January traveled to the Wuhan lab on behalf of the World Health Organization (WHO) to explore how the virus originated.... The WHO report that he helped to author described animals as the 'most likely' source of the pandemic, and ... suggestions that the virus leaked from any of the labs in Wuhan - including the Institute of Virology - were dismissed as 'extremely unlikely'. Yet it later emerged that the WHO team was only given three hours in the lab and were not given access to all the documentation they needed....

"In April the [U.S. Congress's] House Energy and Commerce Committee sent Daszak 34 questions about his involvement with the lab. Despite a deadline of May 17, Daszak failed to respond, a source close to the committee told The questions were about his charity, its federal funding which went to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) in China, and the work the U.S. nonprofit did with the Chinese lab....

"Rather than respond to the allegations that he 'bullied' other scientists into signing off on The Lancet letter - and that his ties to the lab led to such a conflict of interest that he should never have sat on two panels investigating the cause of COVID-19 -  [Daszak] told a reporter: 'You need to remove your car from our drive right now, leave the area and never come back.... Goodbye, I have no comment,' he added."

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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Ivermectin cuts Covid deaths, review study shows

June 21, 2021 - "Use of the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin could reduce COVID-19-related deaths, data from a peer-reviewed study shows. The study, published last week in the American Journal of Therapeutics, analyzed data from multiple clinical studies assessing ivermectin as a potential treatment for COVID-19. Ivermectin, which is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a treatment for intestinal strongyloidiasis and onchocerciasis, which are two conditions caused by parasitic worms, has anti-inflammatory properties....

"First reported by The Epoch Times, the data showed ivermectin reduced the risk of death in mild-to-moderate patients by an average of 62%. The study data further suggests that risk of death was found to be 2.3% among hospitalized patients treated with ivermectin, compared to 7.8% for those who were not. The team did note that there may be no benefit for patients who are in need of mechanical ventilation.

"'Moderate-certainty evidence finds that large reductions in COVID-19 deaths are possible using ivermectin. Using ivermectin early in the clinical course may reduce numbers progressing to severe disease. The apparent safety and low cost suggest that ivermectin is likely to have a significant impact on the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic globally,' the study authors concluded.

"As BioSpace has previously reported, researchers in Australia showed in a laboratory setting that treatment with ivermectin inhibited the COVID-19 virus within 24 to 48 hours of treatment. The preclinical data showed that ivermectin prevented the virus’ RNA from replicating. That particular test showed that ivermectin targets the SARS-CoV-2 virus like a parasite.

"The latest assessment of those multiple studies seems to confirm the potential of ivermectin against COVID-19. However, the FDA currently maintains a web page warning against the unauthorized use of ivermectin to treat the virus. The FDA said it has received multiple reports of patients who have required medical support and been hospitalized after self-medicating with ivermectin that had been approved for use as an anti-parasitic drug in animals.... The FDA notes that clinical studies are underway assessing ivermectin against COVID-19, but until those are reviewed and confirmed, it will warn against taking unauthorized medication."

Monday, June 21, 2021

UK TV host calls lockdown biggest mistake in history

Neil Oliver: 'Lockdown is the biggest single mistake in world history' | Herald Scotland - Vicky Allan:

June 11, 2021 -"In the week in which calls have been made for 'freedom day' to be delayed in England, and in the wake of pausing of easing of restrictions in Scotland, archeologist and television presenter Neil Oliver has called the continued lockdown 'the world’s biggest mistake'.

"Speaking in an interview in the Herald magazine tomorrow [June 12], ahead of his debut as live show host on the new television channel, GB News, he said, 'I think it’s been mishandled from very early on. I think it’s the biggest mistake in world history. I’m not suggesting evil or malicious intent. I just think it’s a mistake....

"'I’m apolitical, but over the lockdown I have had opinions. I think it is the biggest single mistake in world history, and I’m just horrified by the damage that has been done. Whoever lockdown has saved, I think by an order of magnitude others have been hurt.'

"Seeing the footage coming out of Italy, he and his wife, he said, accepted the first lockdown as probably a good thing. 'But then it became clear to me the damage that was being done to the economy, and I became aware of the number of people I know personally that have been ruined by it, self-employed people that were getting no help, nothing for furlough. People who have had no support, no help, lost businesses, lost livelihoods and all the rest of it.'

"The period of the pandemic, he said, has seen a 'stymying and silencing of debate'. 'People talk to me all the time – people that I know quite well, but also people who come up to me for the first time. 'And they whisper. On the dog walk, miles from anywhere, people come up and they lower their voices, because they want to say that they think things are wrong.'

"The letters he received over the past year, and these conversations he had, and his sense that these 'views were not being reflected in the established media' were what, he said, had made him 'interested in being part of GB News'."

Read more:

Bonus video: Dennis Prager said the same thing a year ago. 

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Israel, Denmark announce end to vaccine passes

With most adults vaccinated and case numbers low, Israel removes many restrictions | New York Times - Isabel Kershner:

June 1, 2021 -  "With new coronavirus cases dropping to below 20 a day, Israel on Tuesday retired its Green Pass system and will now allow equal access to restaurants, sports events, cultural activities and the like to vaccinated and unvaccinated citizens. Restrictions on the sizes of gatherings have also been lifted. The decision came less than three months after Israel, a real-world laboratory for the efficacy of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, pioneered its digitized Green Pass system and became a test case for an inoculated society.

"For now, the only remaining pandemic restriction inside the country is a requirement to wear masks in closed public spaces, although that, too, is under discussion by health officials. The main efforts to control the coronavirus are now centered on restrictions for travel in and out of Israel, based on testing and quarantine. Strict limitations remain on the entry of people who are not Israeli citizens.

"'The Green Pass project was very successful,' said Tomer Lotan, the policy chief of Israel’s national coronavirus response center, summing up the experiment of the past few months. It was particularly effective, he said, as an incentive to encourage the 16-to-40 age group to get vaccinated and to allow Israel to reopen its economy. 'But anybody who did not get vaccinated by now is probably not going to,' Mr. Lotan said. About 81 percent of Israel’s adult population has been fully vaccinated, but about 2.6 million children under 16 are still not eligible, out of a total population of just over nine million. Up to a million people have chosen not to be inoculated.... 

"Israel was among the first countries to grapple with some of the legal and moral issues arising from a two-tiered system for vaccinated and unvaccinated people. Because getting vaccinated has been voluntary, some people who chose not to or could not be vaccinated argued that the Green Pass system was discriminatory. Enforcement was also patchy.... Businesses complained about the additional burden of enforcing the rules. And movie complexes and other leisure attractions did not reopen, because it was unprofitable as long as unvaccinated children could not enter without showing a recent negative Covid-19 test, which many found impractical."
Read more:

Denmark to scrap face masks from Monday | The - Ritzau/The Local,de:

June 10, 2021 - "Denmark's government has struck a deal with all but one of the parties in parliament to on Monday end the requirement to wear a face mask in all areas apart from on public transport. Under the agreement, struck after 3am following marathon all-night negotiations, the requirement to wear a face mask will be scrapped completely from October 1st.

"The coronavirus health pass or coronapas will also begin to be phased out from Monday, when those visiting public libraries and participating in activities run by clubs and voluntary organisations will no longer be required to show one.

"From August 1st, a valid coronapas will no longer be needed in theaters, concert venues, indoor sports activities, and a wide range of other venues, from September 1st, you will no longer need to show one in restaurants, the hairdresser or the gym, and on October 1st the pass will be phased out completely.... The agreement also extends how long a negative PCR test provides a valid coronapas to 96 hours."
Read more:

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Lockdown zealots embrace conspiracy theory

Quacks in the Ivory Tower: How Conspiracy Theorizing Took Over Lockdown Science | American Institute of Economic Research - Philip W. Magness:

June 19, 2021 - "Is the Great Barrington Declaration (GBD) simply a front for a secret global eugenics plot, hatched at AIER [American Institute of Economic Affairs] by the British Ministry of Defence and financed by the Koch Brothers as part of an ongoing effort to force climate change, tobacco, and Covid-19 infections on our senior citizens? Such claims may sound like the farcical ravings of an internet paranoiac, yet precisely this narrative has gained a shocking amount of currency among ostensibly serious public health scientists and journalists since the Declaration launched last October 4th....

"Nafeez Ahmed, a writer from a London-based blog called the Byline Times ... has spent the better part of the last year posting conspiratorial bromides against scientists who question lockdown ideology. Fresh off of an unsuccessful Twitter campaign to flood the GBD’s website with fraudulent signatures during the week after it went live, Ahmed shifted his tack in mid-October with a new charge. In a succession of blog posts, he purported to show that the GBD was part of an elaborate scheme by libertarian billionaire Charles Koch to force the reopening of the American economy in spite of Covid’s risks, using AIER as its front. After outlining the financial portion of his conspiracy theory, Ahmed quickly appended a new 'partner' in the alleged plot: the British Ministry of Defence, which he implied to be the source behind the GBD’s website. To top it off, this growing plot was allegedly orchestrated through the owner of a resort hotel in Wales....

"Contrary to Ahmed’s wild imagination, Charles Koch had absolutely no involvement with the Great Barrington Declaration or AIER’s hosting of the conference that produced it  ... (the few exceptions where a Koch-network organization has weighed in on the subject at all tend to take a pro-lockdown stance, such as the Mercatus Center’s Tyler Cowen, who awarded a research prize to Neil Ferguson of Imperial College for his Covid-19 lockdown model. AIER was one of the first high-profile critics of Ferguson’s model and continues to track its abysmal performance over the last year.)

"Although Ahmed’s batty narrative about the GBD’s origins does not withstand even minimal scrutiny, his conspiracy theories spread like wildfire on the pro-lockdown side of the epidemiology profession, and among the journalistic outlets that support them.... Paul Krugman ... promoted the product of Ahmed’s ravings.... Several of the most widely-quoted critics of the Great Barrington Declaration in the press seized on the same narrative and began repeating tall tales about nonexistent funding sources and the wholly imaginary British Ministry of Defense website scheme. Some even added new fringe theories of their own.... 

"David Gorski, a professor of medicine at Wayne State University and one of the media’s favorite go-to sources for quotes denouncing the GBD, published a blog post on October 12th where he liberally quoted and endorsed Ahmed’s conspiracy theories.... Gorski appended his own paranoid attack by branding the GBD a 'eugenics-adjacent' plot to cull and 'sacrific[e] the elderly' in the name of economics.... Gorski’s attacks are not only symptomatic of a deeply disturbed state of mind – they’re unbecoming of a scientific professional, let alone one that the media enlists for expert quotations as a primary interlocutor of the GBD.

"So did Eric Feigl-Ding*, one of social media’s most aggressive promoters of school closures and the fringe 'Zero Covid' theory. Deepti Gurdasani* of Queen Mary University in London, a principal organizer of the pro-lockdown John Snow Memorandum, similarly promoted the Byline Times conspiracy theories about the GBD’s funding. As did Gabriel Scally*, a UK-based epidemiologist who serves the pro-lockdown 'Independent SAGE' group. David Fisman*, a Canadian epidemiologist who aggressively pushed for lockdowns and school closures in Ontario, is another fan of Ahmed’s conspiracy theories....

"Justin Feldman*, a self-described 'epidemiologist of social inequality' at Harvard, ... has published a nonstop stream of frenzied allegations against lockdown critics in the public health profession, usually consisting of unsubstantiated innuendo about shady pecuniary motives behind their scholarship.

"Duke University epidemiologist Gavin Yamey* offered a 'huge shoutout to Dr. Nafeez Ahmed' for supposedly uncovering the bizarre conspiracy linking the GBD website to the British Ministry of Defense and the Welsh hotel proprietor. Elsewhere he praised the Byline Times’s 'great investigative journalism' about the GBD. Half a year later he still asserts that 'Charles Koch shaped [pandemic] policy in the US' through a group of scientists who have no tangible connection to Koch’s philanthropy.

"Columbia University virologist Angela Rasmussen*, another frequent critic of the GBD in the press, embraced the funding conspiracy theory ... accusing the three scientists of being part of a 'propaganda campaign' in the service of AIER’s supposed goal of 'ignore the pandemic, let’s get back to making money via unfettered capitalism.'

"Martin McKee*, a public health professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine who denounced the GBD as a 'fringe view' shortly after its publication, has a habit of giving his endorsement to Ahmed’s conspiracy theories about the very same document. Ahmed’s crazy tales of intrigue have another fan in Robert Dickinson*, a professor of medicine at Imperial College London and signer of the pro-lockdown John Snow Memorandum. Snow Memorandum signer Hisham Ziauddeen* promotes the same conspiratorial claims, in addition to his own blogging against the GBD for Ahmed’s outlet. Epidemiologist Gregg Gonsalves of Yale, another of the media’s favorite sources for ad hominem-laced anti-GBD hot takes, apparently concurs with Ahmed’s paranoid ravings. So does the University of Washington’s Carl Bergstrom*, another press favorite for expert statements defending lockdowns. 

"Keep in mind that these endorsements of Ahmed involve claims that are not simply dubious or uncharitable interpretations – they are factual falsehoods that have entered the talking points of scientific experts who simply agree with their associated political connotations and believe that repeating them enough will discredit an opposing viewpoint. As matters of scientific analysis though, it would not be inaccurate at this point to state that leading academics on the pro-lockdown side of the Covid political debate are now regularly relying upon the paranoid ravings of a conspiracist blogger as one of their primary sources for attacks upon the Great Barrington Declaration."

Read more:

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

* - signatories of the John Snow Memorandum

Friday, June 18, 2021

AZ-vaccinated barred from Springsteen NYC show

Fans who had Oxford vaccine banned from Bruce Springsteen concert | The Telegraph - Jamie Johnson:

June 16, 2021 - "When Bruce Springsteen returns to the stage in New York next week, fans won’t have to have been born in the USA to get in - but it will help if they’ve been vaccinated there. 

"The first Broadway show to reopen since last March will require attendees to show proof of their inoculations. However, only vaccines approved by the US Food and Drug Administration will be accepted. So far, that list is limited to Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson, meaning any prospective concert-goers who have had the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab, will be denied entry.

"The show, billed as 'an intimate night with Bruce, his guitar, a piano, and his stories' will run five nights a week at the St James theatre. 'At the direction of New York State, Springsteen on Broadway and the St James Theatre will only be accepting proof of FDA-approved Covid-19 vaccines,' the website says.

"Anyone who has received another jab, or is unwilling or unable to have a vaccine will not be allowed to attend.

"The news has been met with disappointment just hours north, across the Canadian border, where more than 1.7 million people have had the Oxford-developed vaccine.... 'Burn in the USA' ran the headline in the Toronto Star, which added: 'The show must go on. But if you got the AstraZeneca vaccine, you’re not invited.'

"The jab, which has been rolled out across the UK, and was injected into the arm of the Prime Minister, came under scrutiny after a small number of people suffered blood clots after receiving their dose. The NHS says that the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine is 'safe and tested and will protect you against serious illness from Covid-19.'

"In the UK, ministers have discussed the use of vaccine passports to allow large events to take place, but appear to have cooled on the proposals."

Read more:

UPDATE, June 20:
Springsteen on Broadway theatre backtracks on refusing entry to AstraZeneca recipients | CBC News - Canadian Press:

June 19, 2021 - "Canadians fully immunized with two shots of the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine may now attend a highly anticipated Broadway production featuring Bruce Springsteen.... Jujamcyn Theaters had previously said audience members wishing to attend the show needed to be immunized with vaccines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).... The theatre amended those rules on Friday, citing adjusted guidance from New York state, and now says it will accept audience members vaccinated with shots approved by either the FDA or the World Health Organization. The move means people ... who received two doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, are now theoretically cleared to attend the performance....

"Springsteen on Broadway wasn't the only form of entertainment barred to AstraZeneca-Oxford recipients. Other New York attractions, including Saturday Night Live and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, still say those who received the shots cannot attend live tapings."
Read more:

Thursday, June 17, 2021

UK Freedom Day delay based on obsolete data

Data used by Boris Johnson to delay Freedom Day 'was out of date and underestimated the effectiveness of vaccines' against Indian variant, MPs are told | Daily Mail - Shaun Wooler & Connor Boyd:

June 16, 2021 - "Boris Johnson delayed lockdown based on outdated modelling that is likely to have exaggerated the impact of ending restrictions, MPs have heard.

"Under the most pessimistic scenario, Imperial College London warned Britain could experience 203,824 more deaths by next June. Even more optimistic forecasts from other universities suggested more than 50,000 would die. But the figures were based on old estimates of jab effectiveness, which assumed they would work less well, the Commons science and technology committee heard yesterday.

"Imperial worked on the basis that the AstraZeneca jab would reduce hospitalisations by between 77 and 87 per cent after two doses. But real-world data from Public Health England shows the vaccine is 92 per cent effective at preventing hospitalisation. The power of the Pfizer jab was also underplayed by several university groups.

"It means the modelling considered by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies and the Prime Minister overestimates the likely number of deaths. Readjusting the models could see Imperial's death estimates fall from 203,824 to 26,854. 

"The PHE figures were made public on Monday, after the modelling to support delaying June 21 – but Dr Susan Hopkins, deputy director of PHE's national infection service, told MPs the Government was aware of the figures since last Friday. Tory MP Aaron Bell told the committee: 'The models that we seem to be relying on to justify the extension of restrictions don't appear to be using [the PHE] numbers'.... 

"Latest analysis by Public Health England estimates that Pfizer's vaccine slashes the risk of being hospitalised by the Indian variant by 96 per cent after two doses and AstraZeneca's jab cuts it by 92 per cent.... PHE's study of 14,000 cases of the Indian 'Delta' variant also found a single dose of either vaccine provides roughly 75 per cent protection against being admitted to hospital three weeks after getting the jab. It suggests the vaccines work just as well at reducing Covid hospital rates from the Indian variant – which spooked ministers into delaying the final easing of lockdown – as they do against the previously dominant Kent version.... 

"Officials had always believed the jabs would work well against the variant but there were growing doubts after multiple studies found it made vaccines significantly weaker at preventing infections.... This, combined with the fact the Indian variant is around 60 per cent more transmissible than the Kent version, has led to England's June 21 Freedom Day being delayed by a month.  

"SAGE warned there could be up to 500 Covid deaths a day if Boris Johnson were to press ahead with next week's unlocking. But the group's models were based on older, more pessimistic data about the Indian variant."

Read more:

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

McIntyre elected BC Libertarian leader

Penticton local chosen as Libertarian Party leader | Castanet - Chelsea Powrie:

May 20, 2021 - "Penticton politician and resident Keith MacIntyre has been elected as the new leader of the BC Libertarian Party.

MacIntyre ran as MLA for Penticton in the last provincial election. He is also currently running in a local Penticton city council byelection to fill an empty seat.

"In a press release, MacIntyre shared how honoured he is to be chosen as leader.

"'I saw the party come together and exceed all expectations during the last provincial election. We can build off of that momentum and field a full slate of 87 candidates in the 2024 provincial election,' MacIntyre said, adding that he believes his party stands for individual freedoms, invoking current conflicts in Penticton.

“'In Penticton where I live, the Horgan government is bullying the municipality on three separate fronts: forcing a homeless shelter, closing an addiction centre, and demanding a million dollars after the fact for a Primary Care Network,' MacIntyre said.

The party also chose Sandra Filosof-Schipper, a former candidate in Vancouver-Fairview, as deputy leader."

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Lockdown in Chile where 58% are vaccinated

Covid-19 pandemic: Chile capital locks down despite mass vaccination | BBC News:

June 11, 2021 - "Chile has announced a lockdown in the capital Santiago amid rising Covid cases, despite nearly 60% of the country being fully vaccinated. More than eight million residents living in and around the capital now must stay at home from Saturday.

"On Thursday, Chile reported 7,716 new daily cases, with the vast majority of infections being among those who had not been fully vaccinated. Intensive care beds are nearing full capacity, health officials warn. Jose Luis Espinoza, the president of Chile's National Federation of Nursing Association, says his members are 'on the verge of collapse', Reuters reports.

"About 58% of the country's 17.5 million people have been fully vaccinated, and as many as 75% have received at least one vaccine dose. 

"But critics have accused the government of getting caught up in triumphalism over the vaccine rollout and of having loosened coronavirus restrictions too fast. Chile's borders had been closed from March to November 2020. But after a strict lockdown had driven infections down, the decision was taken to reopen them.

"Chileans were also given special holiday permits to travel more freely around the country during the southern hemisphere summer holidays. Restaurants, shops, and holiday resorts were opened up to kickstart the faltering economy.

"Chile has had nearly 1.5 million infections since the pandemic began, with more than 30,000 Covid-related deaths, according to America's Johns Hopkins university."

Read more:

Update: British Medical Journal, April 20, 2021: 

""A study published by researchers at the University of Chile on 6 April, in which Cortés was not involved, found that the CoronaVac vaccine was 56.5% effective in preventing infections two weeks after a second dose but only 3% effective after a single dose.... Some 93% of the doses administered [in Chile - gd] were the CoronaVac vaccine, manufactured by Chinese state run pharmaceutical Sinovac, and 7% the more effective Pfizer BioNTech vaccine. Chile’s CoronaVac study results are comparable to previous CoronaVac trials elsewhere and 'were not a surprise,' said Cortés."

Monday, June 14, 2021

UK lockdown orders extended until July 19

Covid: Lockdown easing in England to be delayed by four weeks | BBC News - Becky Morton & Joseph Lee:

June 14, 2021 - "Most coronavirus rules will remain in place in England for another four weeks after the planned 21 June unlocking, government sources have told the BBC. Senior ministers have signed off on the decision to delay the lifting of all legal restrictions on social contact. That could mean capacity limits for sports, pubs and cinemas will remain, and nightclubs would stay closed.

"Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to confirm the delay at a news conference later - at 18:00 BST. The extension will be put to a Commons vote this month and could trigger a sizeable Conservative backbench rebellion."

"England was due to move to stage four of the government's roadmap out of lockdown on 21 June, when venues and events would be allowed to operate without capacity limits and the cap on guests at weddings would be lifted. It would also have meant an end to the current rules which limit gatherings at home to six people or two households.

"But many scientists have called for the reopening to be delayed to enable more people to be vaccinated and receive second doses, amid rising cases of the Delta variant. A delay would also allow more work to be done on whether vaccines are breaking, or simply weakening, the link between infections and hospitalisations....

"All areas of Scotland are due to move to Level Zero Covid restrictions on 28 June - meaning bigger groups can gather in cafés, pubs and restaurants, although they will still have to observe social distancing. Limits on indoor gatherings in Northern Ireland are scheduled to be relaxed on 21 June and the current rules in Wales will be reviewed on 25 June.

"If the lifting of restrictions is pushed back, the UK Weddings Taskforce - an industry group - estimates that 50,000 weddings planned in the four weeks from 21 June could be cancelled, with the industry losing £325m for every week of delay. Currently the number of guests allowed at weddings is limited to 30.

"The Night Time Industries Association said businesses such as nightclubs had already spent millions preparing to reopen, and the association will legally challenge any delay to reopening. 'It's going to be catastrophic to us. This will possibly hurt us more than the initial lockdown back in March last year,' said Will Power, owner of the Lab 11 nightclub in Birmingham.

"UKHospitality, which represents pubs, bars and restaurants, said businesses faced losing £3bn in sales if the relaxation of restrictions is delayed by a month."

Read more:

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Child labor rising during pandemic, warns UNICEF

Child labour rises to 160 million – first increase in two decades | UNICEF (press release):

June 9, 2021 – "The number of children in child labour has risen to 160 million worldwide – an increase of 8.4 million children in the last four years – with millions more at risk due to the impacts of COVID-19, according to a new report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and UNICEF. Child Labour: Global estimates 2020, trends and the road forward – released ahead of World Day Against Child Labour on 12th June – warns that progress to end child labour has stalled for the first time in 20 years, reversing the previous downward trend that saw child labour fall by 94 million between 2000 and 2016. 

"The report points to a significant rise in the number of children aged 5 to 11 years in child labour, who now account for just over half of the total global figure. The number of children aged 5 to 17 years in hazardous work – defined as work that is likely to harm their health, safety or morals – has risen by 6.5 million to 79 million since 2016....

"In sub-Saharan Africa, population growth, recurrent crises, extreme poverty, and inadequate social protection measures have led to an additional 16.6 million children in child labour over the past four years. Even in regions where there has been some headway since 2016, such as Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean, COVID-19 is endangering that progress. The report warns that globally, 9 million additional children are at risk of being pushed into child labour by the end of 2022 as a result of the pandemic. A simulation model shows this number could rise to 46 million.... 

"Additional economic shocks and school closures caused by COVID-19 mean that children already in child labour may be working longer hours or under worsening conditions, while many more may be forced into the worst forms of child labour due to job and income losses among vulnerable families. 

'We are losing ground in the fight against child labour, and the last year has not made that fight any easier,' said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. 'Now, well into a second year of global lockdowns, school closures, economic disruptions, and shrinking national budgets, families are forced to make heart-breaking choices. We urge governments and international development banks to prioritize investments in programmes that can get children out of the workforce and back into school, and in social protection programmes that can help families avoid making this choice in the first place.'"

 Other key findings in the report include:                

  • The agriculture sector accounts for 70 per cent of children in child labour (112 million) followed by 20 per cent in services (31.4 million) and 10 per cent in industry (16.5 million).   
  • Nearly 28 per cent of children aged 5 to 11 years and 35 per cent of children aged 12 to 14 years in child labour are out of school.  Child labour is more prevalent among boys than girls at every age. When household chores performed for at least 21 hours per week are taken into account, the gender gap in child labour narrows.   
  • The prevalence of child labour in rural areas (14 per cent) is close to three times higher than in urban areas (5 per cent). 
  • Children in child labour are at risk of physical and mental harm." 

Read more:

Saturday, June 12, 2021

100 million were pushed into poverty, says ILO

UN Labor Agency Finds Pandemic Pushed Over 100 Million Workers Into Poverty | Common Dreams - Jessica Corbett: 

June 2, 2021 - "Over a year after projecting that the coronavirus pandemic could have a 'catastrophic' impact on the global economy and workforce, the United Nations labor agency on Wednesday revealed that the public health crisis pushed more than 100 million workers worldwide into poverty. 

"The new report (pdf), entitled World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends 2021 (WESO Trends), also warns of the 'real risk that — absent comprehensive and concerted policy efforts — the Covid-19 crisis will leave behind a legacy of widened inequality and reduced overall progress in the world of work across multiple dimensions.'

"Worryingly, the International Labor Organization (ILO) report shows that 'the recovery process is likely to be both incomplete and uneven,' said Guy Ryder, the agency's director-general, in a video about the findings. 'Incomplete because the damage done will not be fully repaired by the end of 2022, we will still have a major jobs shortfall,' Ryder explained. 'Uneven because it's the rich countries, the high-income countries, which are the best placed — because they have vaccines, because they have the fiscal means to do so — to recover more quickly."

"The ILO found that relative to 2019, an additional 108 million workers worldwide are now moderately or extremely poor — meaning their families must survive on less than $3.20 per person each day. The report says that 'five years of progress towards the eradication of working poverty have been undone.' [emphasis added - gd]

"The pandemic has 'highlighted the vulnerable situation of migrant workers' and undermined recent progress on gender equality, the report adds. According to Agence France-Presse, Ryder told reporters that the ongoing crisis has also negatively affected efforts to end child [labour] and forced labor.

"'Looking ahead, the projected employment growth will be insufficient to close the gaps opened up by the crisis,' WESO Trends warns. 'To make matters worse, many of the newly created jobs are expected to be of low productivity and poor quality.'

"The U.N. agency projects that the pandemic-induced 'jobs gap' will hit 75 million this year and fall to 23 million next year. The gap in working hours — which accounts for the jobs gap and hours reductions — is expected to be the equivalent of 100 million full-time jobs in 2021 and 26 million full-time jobs in 2022.....

"'Worldwide, employment in the accommodation and food services sector is estimated to have been the worst affected by the crisis,' says the report. The wholesale and retail trade sector was also heavily hit, as was manufacturing and construction, which 'incurred a significant decline in employment as a result of the crisis, bearing the brunt of the impact in the industry sector.'

"'Recovery from Covid-19 is not just a health issue. The serious damage to economies and societies needs to be overcome too,' Ryder emphasized in a statement. 'Without a deliberate effort to accelerate the creation of decent jobs, and support the most vulnerable members of society and the recovery of the hardest-hit economic sectors, the lingering effects of the pandemic could be with us for years in the form of lost human and economic potential and higher poverty and inequality.'

"'We need a comprehensive and coordinated strategy, based on human-centered policies, and backed by action and funding," he added. 'There can be no real recovery without a recovery of decent jobs.'"

Read more: 

Licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). 

Friday, June 11, 2021

No Covid reinfections among unvaccinated found in Cleveland Clinic study

No point vaccinating those who’ve had COVID-19: Findings of Cleveland Clinic study | Life Sciences News - Sanchari Sinha Dutta, Ph.D.

June 8 2021 - "Scientists from the Cleveland Clinic, USA, have recently evaluated the effectiveness of coronavirus disease 2019 COVID-19) vaccination among individuals with or without a history of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection. The study findings reveal that individuals with previous SARS-CoV-2 infection do not get additional benefits from vaccination, indicating that COVID-19 vaccines should be prioritized to individuals without prior infection. The study is currently available on the medRxiv* preprint server (not peer-reviewed)....

"In many countries, especially those with low socioeconomic status, there is a serious shortage of vaccines. Thus, in order to get the maximum vaccine benefits, the most vulnerable population should be prioritized for the vaccination. Currently, most countries prioritize vaccination for healthcare and other frontline workers, elderly people, and people with comorbidities. To further narrow down the prioritization criteria, the scientists in the current study have evaluated the necessity of COVID-19 vaccines for individuals who were previously infected with SARS-CoV-2.

"The study was conducted on 52,238 employees in the Cleveland Clinic. A positive RT-PCR test was considered to define SARS-CoV-2 infection. The participants received two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at an interval of 28 days. A participant was considered vaccinated after 14 days of receiving the 2nd vaccine dose. Similarly, a participant who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 at least 42 days before the vaccination initiation was considered previously infected.

"Of all enrolled participants, 5% had previous SARS-CoV-2 infection. Compared to 59% of non-infected participants, only 47% of previously infected participants were vaccinated by the end of the study.... The analysis of cumulative COVID-19 incidence revealed that during the course of the study, SARS-CoV-2 infection occurred almost exclusively in participants who were not previously infected and were not vaccinated.

"Interestingly, no significant difference in COVID-19 incidence was observed between previously infected and currently unvaccinated participants, previously infected and currently vaccinated participants, and previously uninfected and currently vaccinated participants. The participants from these three groups exhibited a significantly lower incidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection compared to previously uninfected and currently unvaccinated participants.

"Specifically, of all infections during the study period, 99.3% occurred in participants who were not infected previously and remained unvaccinated. In contrast, only 0.7% of infections occurred in participants who were not previously infected but were currently vaccinated. 

"Importantly, not a single incidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection was observed in previously infected participants with or without vaccination.... [emphasis added - gd]

"Although the study did not directly estimate the duration of protection from natural infection, it was observed that previously infected participants remained protected against COVID-19 for at least 10 months after the symptom onset or a positive test result. The scarcity of vaccines, coupled with the knowledge that vaccines do not provide additional protection to those who have already been infected, is the strongest argument for restricting vaccine administration to those who have not had the infection."

Read more:

Read study here:

Thursday, June 10, 2021

New Covid lockdowns in China

Major Chinese city battles Delta Covid variant first detected in India with lockdowns, mass testing | South China Morning Post - Arjun Kharpal:

June 7, 2021 - "Authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong are carrying out mass testing and have locked down areas to try to control a flare up of coronavirus cases in Guangzhou. The city has cited the Delta variant of the coronavirus, first detected in India, as a driver behind the uptick in cases it has reported since the latter part of May.... Guangzhou, a city of over 15 million people and the provincial capital, has reported 96 of the over 100 cases in Guangdong province in this latest outbreak.

"China, where the coronavirus first emerged last year, quickly got the epidemic under control and has had very few cases over the past 12 months. However, clusters have emerged in parts of the country including major cities like capital Beijing and finance hub Shanghai. The Guangzhou cases are potentially even more concerning because they involve the Delta strain of the coronavirus, which can spread very quickly.

"A 75-year old woman in Liwan, a district of Guangzhou in the west of the city, was the first confirmed case of the Delta variant on May 21. She visited a restaurant and ended up infecting her husband. The latest infections began from there and have since spread to other areas of the city.

"Liwan, still the worst-hit district, has imposed strict lockdowns on certain streets. Some areas are not letting people in an out of a certain zone and residents are not allowed to leave their building. Twenty-four hour checkpoints have been set up to monitor movement in and out of these areas.

"But the virus has also spread to other parts of the city and province, too. Foshan, a city just southwest of Guangzhou has reported cases. On June 4, six members of the same family in the Nansha district of Guangzhou tested positive for the coronavirus. On Sunday, a positive case was found in the Chinese technology hub of Shenzhen, home to companies including Huawei and Tencent....

"After the first case was found, Guangzhou initially carried out mass testing in Liwan that has since expanded to other areas. In the central business district, known as Zhujiang New Town, residents were asked to take a test at a site near their apartments between Friday and Sunday. One such testing site, which was set up on a road full of bars and restaurants, had huge lines on Friday. Guangzhou carried out over 16 million tests between May 26 and midnight on June 5.

"In Guangzhou, authorities have imposed tighter travel restrictions. Some metro stations in the city are closed. Authorities have urged people to not leave the city. But if residents need to leave the province, they should have a negative nucleic acid test conducted within 48 hours of their departure. Previously, travelers had a 72 hour window. Hundreds of domestic flights have also been canceled from Guangzhou’s Baiyun International Airport."

Read more:

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

German study finds little effect from lockdowns

Lockdown 'had no effect' on coronavirus pandemic in Germany | The Telegraph - Justin Huggler:

June 3, 2021 - "A new study by German scientists claims to have found ... that lockdowns may have had little effect on controlling the coronavirus pandemic. Statisticians at Munich University found 'no direct connection' between the German lockdown and falling infection rates in the country.

"Instead, the study found infection rates had already clearly begun to fall before a national lockdown was imposed last November. It also found clear evidence the rate was already falling on the two occasions the lockdown was tightened, in December and April.

"The study focused on the R number, which indicates how many people each infected person passes the virus to. The scientists argue it is less easily distorted by fluctuating test rates than the weekly infection rates used by the German government to decide lockdown restrictions. The study found that on each occasion the R number was already under 1 before the new restrictions came into force, indicating that infections were falling. The lockdown has since been lifted across most of the country.  

"'The measures taken could have had a positive effect on the course of the infection, but are not solely responsible for the decline,' the study’s authors wrote.

"The study was quickly seized on by lockdown opponents, but its authors were at pains to stress they were not making a political argument. 'You can't tell from the data that the lockdown was unnecessary,' Prof Ralph Brinks, one of the study’s co-authors, told German television. 'All that it shows is that the start of lockdown and the fall in infections do not coincide.' 

"Germany went into 'lockdown lite', with restaurants and bars closed but non-essential shops open, on November 2. It went into full lockdown on December 16, and restrictions were tightened on April 23 under Angela Merkel’s 'emergency brake'.

"While no one has disputed the study’s figures, other scientists argued the debate over lockdown may have contributed to the fall in infections. Thorsten Lehr, professor of clinical pharmacy at Saarland University, told German television public discussions over impending lockdown measures may have influenced people to change their behaviour and meet others less."

Read more:

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Newsom ends lockdown, keeps lockdown powers

Gov. Gavin Newsom Clings to COVID-19 Emergency Powers | Reason - Scott Shackford:

June 7, 2021 - "California Gov. Gavin Newsom has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic with a controlling, micromanaging leadership style that few other governors can match.... [T]he California Democrat is ordering the state to re-open on his terms, not easing up the rules until June 15. And even though Newsom has declared that the state will be 'reopening' that day, he announced Friday that he won't be declaring an end to the emergency and — the big issue here — won't be surrendering his emergency powers.

"California's Emergency Services Act grants the governor extremely broad powers when he declares an emergency: 'complete authority over all agencies of the state government and the right to exercise within the area designated all police power vested in the state by the Constitution and laws of the State of California.' The act is explicit that when these emergencies are declared, the governor's orders 'shall have the force and effect of law,' albeit with some restrictions — he cannot suspend the Constitution or confiscate legally owned firearms.

"'We're still in a state of emergency,' Newsom said Friday. 'This disease has not been extinguished. It's not vanished. It's not taking the summer months off.' Many diseases have not been extinguished or vanished, but it would be absurd for a governor to take near-complete control to respond to all of them. New COVID-19 cases and deaths in California have plunged to levels that can be managed without the governor's intrusive involvement....

"Distressingly, the pushback against Newsom's move has fallen along partisan lines. Two Republican lawmakers introduced a bill in December that would limit the duration of a governor's emergency orders to 60 days, after which the governor would need to seek lawmakers' approval for each new regulation. The bill went nowhere. A Senate bill to terminate Newsom's original emergency declaration, also introduced in December, has similarly gone nowhere. The eight senators co-sponsoring that bill are all Republicans....

"The Los Angeles Times adds some useful context demonstrating the problems with giving the executive branch this much control. The state's Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board is recommending rules that ... would require workplaces to maintain vaccination records for their employees. If any employee is unvaccinated, everybody has to wear masks. These rules are stricter than the CDC's recommendations, and infectious disease experts say they could be looser. But because of Newsom's emergency powers, the legislators' ability to force changes to these rules is limited.

"Newsom is facing a recall in the fall, so the voters will get an early opportunity to decide whether he has abused his authority. The politicians who have been calling the recall an attempt to 'undermine democracy,' as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) put it, should stop and take stock of what Newsom is doing here: He is deliberately excluding legislators from their constitutional role in crafting the state's laws. Who exactly is undermining democracy here?"

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Monday, June 7, 2021

Covid + lockdowns both hammering India's poor

Hunger stalks India's poor in COVID-19 pandemic double blow | CNA - AFP/jt:

May 30, 2021 - "Rasheeda Jaleel lives in fear that she may not be able to feed her seven children as millions of Indian families are forced into poverty by a devastating new coronavirus wave. The 40-year-old, her husband Abdul Jaleel, 65, and the children already survive on just one meal a day....

"The coronavirus has killed 160,000 in eight weeks, overwhelmed hospitals and shut many businesses in India. Experts warn that another crisis is looming, with rising levels of hunger among poor Indians already reeling from a first lockdown last year. 'It's a double crisis that the poor in the country are facing - there is the health crisis and there is also an income economic crisis," Anjali Bhardwaj from the Right to Food Campaign told AFP....

"More than 7.3 million jobs were lost in April [2021] alone, according to the Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy. That means more pain in a country where 90 per cent of the workforce is in the informal sector with no social safety net, and where millions do not qualify for emergency government rations.

"'A lot of people went into poverty last year, they went into debt, and ... they had to cut back on food consumption,' Associate Professor Amit Basole, one of the university study's authors, told AFP. 'So the second wave is coming on top of a very precarious, stressed situation.'

"In last year's lockdown, about 100 million people lost their jobs in India. After restrictions were lifted, around 15 per cent failed to find employment by the end of 2020 - including 47 per cent of female workers, the Azim Premji University study found. Many who returned to work had to settle for lower pay, leaving them more vulnerable when the second wave hit....

"'The fear is that we ... get locked into a longish-term depressed economy where there is low aggregate demand because people's jobs and incomes are not coming back. And because they are not coming back, it ... perpetuates its own cycle,' Basole said.

"Bhupinder Singh, a micro-financier who has distributed food to the needy during the two lockdowns, has seen desperation rise among hundreds of unemployed men sleeping rough beside a busy Delhi highway. When he arrives with food packets, a cry of excitement goes up and men run to the back of his car and form a long queue.

"'People are stuck here out of helplessness,' Sunil Thakur, 50, who lost his job as a hotel waiter during the lockdown, told AFP. 'If they come with food, we get to eat ... If they don't come, we'll stay hungry.'

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