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Was lockdown sold on a LIE? Oxford scientist says 4,000 deaths graph should NOT have been used

Coronavirus infections and hospital admissions are ‘flatlining’ and graphs that the Government used to justify England’s second lockdown were misleading with one ‘proven to be incorrect’, an Oxford expert claims.

Professor Carl Heneghan, of the university’s Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, has again hit out at the ‘out-dated’ data used by Boris Johnson and his top scientific and medical advisers to force England into another lockdown in Saturday’s TV briefing.

One, which suggested there could be up to 4,000 deaths per day by December, was ‘mathematically incorrect’ and should not have been used, he said.  

Professor Heneghan, who has been an outspoken critic of the Government’s lockdown strategy, said that trends in the country’s epidemic have changed in recent weeks and stopped accelerating. Although deaths will continue to rise for weeks because of infections that have already happened, he said they would slow down accordingly.

Sir Patrick Vallance and Professor Chris Whitty have come under fire for the slides they presented in the press conference at the weekend, and will today be grilled by MPs on Parliament’s science committee at 2pm.

Meanwhile Britain yesterday recorded its lowest number of daily Covid infections for a fortnight on the same day Boris Johnson desperately tried to convince Tory MPs to back a draconian second lockdown.

Department of Health figures showed 18,950 people tested positive for the disease, which was down 9.3 per cent in a week and the lowest since Monday, October 19 (18,804). The UK also saw another 136 coronavirus deaths — a rise of 33.3 per cent on the 102 lab-confirmed fatalities posted last week.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson out running in London this morning

Director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine Carl Heneghan (left) said mathematically the document should not have been used to justify the new lockdown curbs (right, the PM today)

Sir Patrick Vallance and Prof Chris Whitty (left and right with the PM during Saturday's address to the nation) face questions from MPs over the 4,000 deaths a day figure after a backlash from scientists

Sir Patrick Vallance and Prof Chris Whitty (left and right with the PM during Saturday’s address to the nation) face questions from MPs over the 4,000 deaths a day figure after a backlash from scientists

This slide presented on live TV on Saturday shows a projection of deaths hitting 4,000 per day by the end of December (blue line) but experts say they are 'concerned' about the decision to include this because it is based on old data that has since been updated

This slide presented on live TV on Saturday shows a projection of deaths hitting 4,000 per day by the end of December (blue line) but experts say they are ‘concerned’ about the decision to include this because it is based on old data that has since been updated

The 4,000 deaths per day scenario was based on the assumption that there would be 1,000 per day by the start of November. Real numbers of people dying are significantly lower, with an average 182 per day in England and 162 confirmed yesterday for the whole UK

The 4,000 deaths per day scenario was based on the assumption that there would be 1,000 per day by the start of November. Real numbers of people dying are significantly lower, with an average 182 per day in England and 162 confirmed yesterday for the whole UK

Professor Heneghan said on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning: ‘Right now cases are shifting in a way they weren’t three weeks ago. They are starting to flatline.

‘Admissions are flatlining and in effect deaths are starting to flatline so there will be an update I hope on this system tomorrow on Wednesday that will give us a clear understanding of where we’re going.

‘Also today ONS will be reporting on excess deaths, so the next 24 hours will give much more useful information that should inform whether a lockdown should occur or not.’

On his use of the word flatline for hospital admissions, Professor Heneghan said: ‘So one of the things about hospital admissions is it doesn’t take into account discharges, it also doesn’t tell you who that person is, for instance everybody going into hospital is being tested.

‘If you look at the patients in hospital data, that’s a much more useful measure and if you look at that on the 31st October it was 9,213 and it actually dropped for the first time on 1st November to 9,077 by about 130 patients.

‘That’s the first drop in over a month on that data set. So I would look at patients in hospital, not the number being actually admitted which is very variable and quite noisy in what its context is.’

Professor Heneghan explained that the now-infamous 4,000 deaths per day graph shown on Saturday was based on data that was weeks out of date.

It was using a model based on the projection that there would be 1,000 deaths per day by now, the start of November. In reality the daily average is lower than 200.

In example of how the outbreak is slowing down in places with tough lockdown rules, Professor Heneghan pointed to Liverpool.

Liverpool, which is in a Tier Three local lockdown is one of the worst-hit parts of the country, with hospitals in the city facing more patients than they did in coronavirus’s first wave in March and April and the region’s ambulance service last night declaring a ‘major incident’ and warning of serious delays.

Professor Heneghan said the R value in Liverpool is ‘well below one at this moment in time’. He said there is a problem in the city but cases have halved and hospital admissions have ‘stabilised’.

He continued: ‘What you’ve got is these pockets around the country where trusts like Liverpool have got into trouble with over half the patients being Covid patients.

‘But again, let’s look at the data, the data in Liverpool is showing cases have come down by about half. Admissions have now stabilised so, yes, there is a problem in Liverpool but actually the Tier restriction, the people in Liverpool have dropped cases from about 490 a day to 260 a day.’ 

Sir Patrick and Prof Whitty are to be dragged before the science and technology select committee this afternoon over claims their graph on Saturday was out of date.

The figures presented by Sir Patrick, who is the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, suggested there would be 4,000 deaths per day by December 20.

But the data from October 9 was produced before the new tier system came into force, which has helped beat back the virus.

Scientists from Oxford University said if the forecasting was correct then there would currently be about 1,000 deaths per day, yet the average over the last week was 265, with yesterday at 136.

The modelling was also based on the R rate being at 1.3 to 1.5 despite the government understanding it to be between 1.1 and 1.3.

The Government Office for Science yesterday would not release the graph’s key, saying ‘relevant papers would be published shortly’.

Committee chairman Greg Clark said: ‘Parliament must have the chance to understand and question the evidence and rationale behind new restrictions in advance of Wednesday’s vote.’ 

Top scientists said the infection data could be evidence of England’s three-tier lockdown system starting to take effect, by cutting down the speed of growth in the North.

It raises questions about whether Number 10 jumped the gun with a second national shutdown, which SAGE warned was needed to save Christmas.

It comes as the Prime Minister insisted cases were now surging so high there was ‘no alternative’ to the month-long blanket restrictions across England. He warned that otherwise the death toll could be double that in the previous peak.

In a statement to the Commons, he tried to soothe a growing mutiny by reassuring the House that the measures will legally end on December 2 – and if they need to be extended there will be another vote.

But he was roasted by Sir Keir Starmer for wasting weeks refusing to lock down England while the death toll spiralled – before performing an embarrassing U-turn. 

Boris Johnson yesterday begged Tories to keep faith in his coronavirus strategy as he defended his plan to plunge England into a fresh national lockdown

Keir Starmer

In the Commons yesterday, Boris Johnson was roasted by Keir Starmer for wasting weeks refusing to lock down England while the death toll spiralled – before performing an embarrassing U-turn

Sir Keir said the premier had wasted 40 days when his own scientific experts were urging a ‘circuit breaker’ – during which time daily deaths had soared from just 11 to 326. 

‘On September 21 when the Government’s scientists Sage recommended an urgent two to three-week circuit break there were 11 deaths from Covid-19 and just over 4,000 Covid infections,’ Sir Keir said.

‘For 40 days the Prime Minister ignored that advice and when he finally announced a longer and deeper national lockdown on Saturday those figures had increased to 326 deaths a day and 22,000 Covid cases.

KEIR STARMER ROASTS BORIS JOHNSON FOR IGNORING CIRCUIT-BREAKER ADVICE

Boris Johnson was yesterday roasted by Keir Starmer for wasting weeks refusing to lock down England while the death toll spiralled – before performing an embarrassing U-turn.

In a statement to the Commons, the PM insisted cases were now surging so high there was ‘no alternative’ to the month-long blanket restrictions across England. He warned that otherwise the death toll could be double that in the previous peak.

But he tried to soothe a growing mutiny by reassuring the House that the measures will legally end on December 2 – and if they need to be extended there will be another vote. 

The Prime Minister also declared that grants for the self-employed will be ramped up from 40 per cent of average previous profits to 80 per cent, although it is not clear whether that will be just for the during of the squeeze.

However, Sir Keir launched an excoriating attack on Mr Johnson for his ‘failure’ to introduce the crackdown quickly enough.

He said the premier had wasted 40 days when his own scientific experts were urging a ‘circuit breaker’ – during which time daily deaths had soared from just 11 to 326.

‘On September 21 when the Government’s scientists Sage recommended an urgent two to three-week circuit break there were 11 deaths from Covid-19 and just over 4,000 Covid infections,’ Sir Keir said.

‘For 40 days the Prime Minister ignored that advice and when he finally announced a longer and deeper national lockdown on Saturday those figures had increased to 326 deaths a day and 22,000 Covid cases.

‘That is the human cost of the Government’s inaction. The reality is that the two pillars of the Prime Minister’s strategy, the £12billion Track and Trace and regional restrictions have not only failed to stop the second wave, they’ve been swept away by it.

‘At every stage, the Prime Minister has been too slow, behind the curve. At every stage, he has pushed away challenge, ignored advice and put what he hoped would happen above what is happening.

‘At every stage, he’s over-promised and under-delivered. Rejecting the advice of his own scientists over 40 days was a catastrophic failure of leadership and of judgment.’

The intervention came as Mr Johnson faces the wrath of Conservative MPs enraged by the ‘evil’ new rules. They have been branded ‘unimaginable’ and compared to the actions of a ‘totalitarian regime.

‘That is the human cost of the Government’s inaction. The reality is that the two pillars of the Prime Minister’s strategy, the £12billion Track and Trace and regional restrictions have not only failed to stop the second wave, they’ve been swept away by it.

‘At every stage, the Prime Minister has been too slow, behind the curve. At every stage, he has pushed away challenge, ignored advice and put what he hoped would happen above what is happening.

‘At every stage, he’s over-promised and under-delivered. Rejecting the advice of his own scientists over 40 days was a catastrophic failure of leadership and of judgment.’

The intervention came as Mr Johnson faced the wrath of Conservative MPs enraged by the ‘evil’ new rules.  They have been branded ‘unimaginable’ and compared to the actions of a ‘totalitarian regime. 

A crunch vote is due on the lockdown plan on Wednesday, with dozens of Tories threatening to oppose the rules. But Sir Keir has said Labour will vote with Government, meaning the lockdown is likely to sail through despite Tory revolt. 

Before the statement, Speaker Lindsay Hoyle laid into government leaks that prevented the news being announced to Parliament first. He insisted that the culprit must be identified and if it is an MP they must make a personal apology to the House. 

Scientists and Cabinet ‘Doves’ have been accused of an extraordinary choreography to force Mr Johnson into the draconian lockdown – amid warnings it could devastate the economy. 

MPs are furious about a concerted effort to ‘bounce’ the PM into imposing the swingeing restrictions in England from December 2, as it was revealed that science chief Sir Patrick Vallance gave a blood-curdling briefing to reporters on Friday underlining SAGE’s demands for an immediate lockdown – alongside figures suggesting more than 85,000 people could die this winter.

The bombshell assessment came an hour before the powerful ‘quad’ of the PM, Michael Gove, Matt Hancock and Rishi Sunak met around 3.30pm to discuss the move.

Sir Patrick told stunned reporters that it was too late for a two-week circuit breaker, and a four-week lockdown similar to that introduced in France was the best way to control the R number. Those in the briefing were left in little doubt that a national squeeze was coming. 

In fact Mr Johnson had still been wavering on the issue that morning, when Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was sent out to defend the local ‘Tiers’ system on the airwaves. The premier even ‘argued against himself’ about whether the damage from lockdown would be worse than the disease during the ‘Quad’ meeting.

But, confronted with Sir Patrick and Chris Whitty’s dire predictions he set the wheels in motion on a month-long lockdown. 

Within hours the tentative decision taken by the elite group was leaked to the Daily Mail and Times – before the full Cabinet had been informed – in an apparent effort to prevent the PM changing his mind. 

By Saturday morning the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg was giving details of two key documents that were shown to the ‘quad’, a controversial prediction that the daily death toll would hit 4,000 a day and that NHS hospitals would be overwhelmed. 

There has since been criticism that the 4,000 a day projection was already out of date. It was produced by experts from the University of Cambridge and Public Health England who have since revised their numbers and lowered the possible numbers of deaths. 

Nevertheless, both slides formed a key part of the data finally officially presented on Saturday night, when a livid Mr Johnson brought forward his announcement after a call with his clueless wider Cabinet.

A formal leak inquiry has now been launched to find the culprit – with claims that just 15 people, including Sir Patrick, chief medical officer Chris Whitty and NHS England head Sir Simon Stevens were in the meeting.

There have even been dark threats that the police could be called in to find who undermined the PM’s approach. 

Fingers have been pointed at Mr Gove and Mr Hancock, both of whom deny being the source. Downing Street insists it was not in its interests for the information to go public at that stage.

A former Cabinet minister told MailOnline that the behind-the-scenes manoeuvring over the lockdown was ‘very odd’.

They suggested that the intervention from Sir Patrick was part of an effort to ‘bounce’ the PM. ‘It does sound like a bounce. If he was briefing people in advance he was obviously trying to build up a head of steam behind the notion of a lockdown,’ they said.

The Tory MP suggested the events had the hallmarks of a ‘Gove-Cummings’ operation – a reference to the fact that the PM’s chief adviser used to work for the Cabinet Office minister. ‘I don’t think there is any doubt about that. Gove has already proven that he doesn’t feel a great deal of loyalty to the PM,’ the MP said.

‘I was always astounded Boris brought him in again. Presumably it was part of the package with Cummings.

‘It’s the Gove-Cummings axis that is the problem here.’

The MP said the figures being used to support the lockdown move, including claims that deaths could hit 4,000 a day, were questionable

‘The figures don’t appear to have been updated to reflect the true state of affairs,’ they said.

A government source told the Telegraph that Mr Johnson had not made a final decision by the end of the Quad meeting, and Mr Sunak was working on ‘softening the impact and trying to keep it focused on the regional approach’.

The source added: ‘When it was leaked it became a done deal and forced the Prime Minister to take action.’ 

Boris Johnson (pictured in Downing Street yesterday) announced at a press conference on Saturday night that England is being plunged into another lockdown to stop the spread of coronavirus

Boris Johnson (pictured in Downing Street yesterday) announced at a press conference on Saturday night that England is being plunged into another lockdown to stop the spread of coronavirus

Ministers warn ‘all bets are off’ on Christmas unless lockdown works 

Cabinet ministers have warned ‘all bets are off’ on families being able to celebrate Christmas together if Boris Johnson’s national lockdown fails to curb coronavirus infection rates.

The Prime Minister’s England-wide shutdown is due to start on Thursday and the Government’s aim is to lift the blanket restrictions on December 2.

However, the Government has failed to guarantee that will be a firm exit date amid fears the shutdown could be extended over the festive period and even into the new year.

Ministers believe the ‘lag’ between the point of infection and the point at which people can become seriously ill could mean that the death figures are still surging even by the end of the lockdown.

That could fuel calls for the draconian measures to be kept in place until the start of 2021 or beyond. 

Mr Johnson moved to reassure MPs that he will ‘seek to ease’ curbs and return to the localised tiered system on December 2, following suggestions from Mr Gove yesterday the lockdown could be extended again.

Mr Sunak tried to soothe angry Tory backbenchers this morning insisting the lockdown measures will be legally ended on the date.

He said the ‘hope and expectation’ was that the virus would be at a low enough level by then to ease the curbs, although he admitted they will be kept under review.

However, government sources have been warning that lockdown could stretch well into next month if hospitalisations remain high and that ‘all bets are off’ for Christmas.

Sir Keir Starmer has said Labour will vote with the Government, meaning the lockdown will likely sail through the Commons. 

But the PM has come under fire from his own side and will face stiff opposition from hawkish Tory backbenchers gearing up to rebel against the measures.

Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the powerful 1922 committee, led the backlash of MPs, telling the BBC’s Westminster Hour last night: ‘I think the aspect of the lockdown restrictions that actually bother me most would be the extent of intrusion in what ordinarily we see as fundamental human rights; the freedom of association, the right to family life, we even now have the Government telling us who we can sleep with or not depending on if they’re deemed to be in an established relationship. 

‘If these kinds of measures were being taken in any totalitarian country around the world we would be denouncing it as a form of evil. And here the removal of people’s fundamental liberties is going almost without comment.’   

Tory ex-minister Sir Desmond Swayne said it would take a ‘huge amount of persuasion for me to vote for this disastrous course of action’.

Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the powerful 1922 committee, led the Tory backlash warning that the government curbs on civil liberties were 'evil'

Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the powerful 1922 committee, led the Tory backlash warning that the government curbs on civil liberties were ‘evil’ 

Former Cabinet minister Esther McVey said she would vote against them because the ”lockdown cure’ is causing more harm than Covid’. 

Backbencher Peter Bone told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning he had not yet decided how to vote on the measures outlined by Prime Minister Boris Johnson when they are debated in the Commons on Wednesday.

Questions over dossier prediction of 4,000 deaths per day 

The claim that 4,000 people could be dying from coronavirus by next month could be four or five times too high and not reflect the current situation, experts warn.

The shocking figure was presented by chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance in Saturday’s TV briefing where Boris Johnson announced the UK’s second lockdown.

But there are concerns that it’s out of date and inaccurate, with SAGE accused of ‘misleading’ the public and MPs by cherry-picking the scariest data.

Professor Carl Heneghan, of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at the University of Oxford, said he ‘cannot understand why they have used this data’.

The forecast could be four or five times too high, he said, because it is based on there being an average 1,000 deaths per day in the UK right now. In reality the daily average was 182 per day October 22 and 28, according to Department of Health data.

The number, which appeared as the worst case on a graph with three other possible scenarios, was created by statisticians at the University of Cambridge and Public Health England who have since revised their numbers and lowered the possible numbers of deaths. The team’s forecasts are not published online, like some of their other work, but are sent directly to SPI-M, a sub-group of SAGE, to do with it what they choose.

A potential 4,000 fatalities per day if there are no changes to restrictions was almost twice as high as the second worst case, which put them at a touch higher than 2,000 per day.

The lowest estimates in the no-action scenario estimated deaths at just below 2,000 per day, and all were higher than the peak in the first wave, when the most deaths were recorded on April 8 (1,073).  

Hitting out at ‘unreadable graphs’ at the press conference, Mr Bone said: ‘At the moment, I have not been convinced that I should vote on Wednesday with the Government. 

Some of those on the backbenches were even calling for Mr Johnson to go. He’s on borrowed time, totally inept,’ one source told The Times.

‘I think it could be his Suez,’ a former cabinet minister told the paper, in a reference to the 1950s crisis that led to Anthony Eden’s resignation.

A minister told the paper: ‘He’s been overrun by the virus and by his ‘advisers.’ They are nasty, they misunderstand the parliamentary party, and above all are totally, totally sh*t. Over the last week — with the row over free school meals and this — I think we’ve lost the next election.’ 

The row over the leaks from the ‘Quad’ has become so serious that No10 is threatening to call in the police.

One Cabinet source told the Telegraph: ‘They are going studs up on the leak. They will do everything possible. ‘If they have to bring the police into this they will do that. That is the level of seriousness this is being treated at. 

‘The sentiment – particularly among Cabinet ministers – is that when they find the leaker they should be absolutely punished. You can imagine how the Chief Whip feels.’ 

Sources insisted Sir Patrick’s briefing came at a normal off the record discussion with journalists. 

Meanwhile, it has been announced that Sir Patrick and Prof Whitty are due to be grilled by the Commons Science Committee tomorrow about the new restrictions. 

Mr Johnson announced the second lockdown – which will begin on Thursday following the Commons vote the day before – during a Downing Street press conference on Saturday night.

A worst case prediction of as many as 4,000 deaths a day by Christmas without action being taken was the final straw for a Prime Minister who had previously ruled out such a move as his ‘nuclear deterrent’.

Pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops will be forced to close, although, unlike the first lockdown in March, schools will remain open.

Addressing MPs in the House of Commons this afternoon, he is expected to say: ‘Models of our scientists suggest that unless we act now, we could see deaths over the winter that are twice as bad or more compared with the first wave.

‘Faced with these latest figures, there is no alternative but to take further action at a national level.

‘I know some in the House believe we should have reached this decision earlier, but I believe it was right to try every possible option to get this virus under control at a local level, with strong local action and strong local leadership.’

The Prime Minister will, however, stop short of guaranteeing that the national lockdown will end on December 2 as proposed.

Mr Johnson will say: ‘At the end of four weeks, on Wednesday 2 December, we will seek to ease restrictions, going back into the tiered system on a local and regional basis according to the latest data and trends.’

But a Whitehall source said: ‘The next three or four months are going to be very tough.

‘Hopefully we can ease things up a bit after a month, but that isn’t certain and we are still going to have to keep our foot on the brake to a certain extent.

‘So far, Tier Three is the only thing short of lockdown shown to have worked at all. It is reducing the R-rate – only very slowly, and the rate is still above one – but it does work to stop things getting worse.

‘With Tier Two, it is much harder to say it is working. Maybe it would if compliance was better, but so far it is not reducing the R-rate – it is not a solution.’

Mr Sunak is regarded as the leading Cabinet hawk on the need to keep the economy running, and has been forced to deny claims that he threatened to resign. 

But speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Sunak said when medical and science experts briefed senior ministers last week it was clear the only ‘responsible’ course was to impose a national lockdown. 

‘What’s clear is that the virus is spreading even faster than the reasonable worse case of our scientific advisers,’ he said.

‘And the models suggested that, unless we acted, we would see deaths in this country running at levels in excess of where they were in the spring – a peak of mortality far higher,’ the Chancellor said.

‘And we saw incidents, even in areas where it’s currently low, rising at a very rapid rate, which would mean that, in a matter of weeks, the NHS would be overwhelmed.’

Mr Sunak gave a stark warning that unemployment is set to rise due to the clampdown. 

‘Close to three-quarters of a million people have already tragically lost their jobs and sadly many more will,’ he said. 

‘That is going to happen as a result of the restrictions we are putting in place’ 

Mr Suank tried to reassure angry Tory backbenchers by insisting the lockdown measures will be legally ended on December 2.

He said the ‘hope and expectation’ was that the virus would be at a low enough level by then to ease the curbs, although he admitted they will be kept under review.

Pressed on whether the R rate was key to restrictions being lifted on that date, Rishi Sunak said: ‘It would be wrong to say there was one single indicator.

‘There is a range of different things we look at.’

Asked if self-employment support would rise to 80 per cent of usual profits from around 40 per cent currently, the Chancellor stressed the grants cover a longer period than the furlough scheme.

Recovery, a campaign group against lockdowns, beams its message: 'Lockdowns don't work' onto the Houses of Parliament in Westminster

Recovery, a campaign group against lockdowns, beams its message: ‘Lockdowns don’t work’ onto the Houses of Parliament in Westminster 

Shares plunge on lockdown news 

Boris Johnson’s new lockdown plan sent shares in retail and leisure firms plummeting yesterday as the stock market reacted to his hastily released plans. 

British Airways owner IAG, Wetherspoons, Cineworld, JD Sports, EasyJet and pub and restaurant owner Mitchells and Butlers all saw heavy falls in their share price this morning.

Airlines, pubs and non-essential retail are set to be put back into a deep freeze for at least four weeks from Thursday.

But there were also winners from the plans to shut all non-essential retailers until December 2.

Ocado, Just Eat Takeaway, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and B&Q owner Kingfisher all saw a boost in shares as investors anticipated an increase in sales for online food delivery and DIY businesses.

Ocado announced profits will now be higher than previously thought – sending shares up nearly 8 per cent within an hour of the stock market’s 8am opening. 

‘Directionally of travel, the 40 per cent will go up to reflect the fact that at least one of those months of support will be at a higher level for those who are in employment,’ Mr Sunak said.

Mr Gove said yesterday that it was his ‘fervent hope’ that the restrictions could be ended as planned – but admitted that an extension may be necessary.

He said ministers would be ‘guided by the facts’, adding: ‘We do need to get the R rate below 1.’

Asked whether an extension was possible, he told Sky News: ‘Yes.’

The PM is said to have been torn by the decision to go back into lockdown because of the impact it would have on people’s lives and jobs – but felt he had no choice when presented with data showing the NHS was on course to be overwhelmed within weeks.

One ally said: ‘It breaks his heart to do things that mean businesses are going to close down and people are going to lose their jobs. He is a free-market Conservative who doesn’t want to do any of this stuff.

‘But we are talking about a situation where the NHS would be unable to accept new patients through the door. You are talking about people dying in hospital corridors and car parks. It is morally impossible for any government to sanction that. And it’s probably not politically survivable.’

 Restive Tory MPs last night demanded the Government produce an exit plan, or an alternative strategy, to ensure the country is not trapped in a cycle of repeated lockdowns.

Charles Walker, who represents Broxbourne in Hertfordshire, said: ‘The lockdown is like a nightmare that we’ll never wake up from – a dream where whatever door you open to escape leads back to the same place. We can’t keep doing the same thing because it doesn’t work.’

A Cabinet minister warned the Times that Christmas plans for many will wrecked if the R rate remains high.  

One economist predicted as much as £1.8billion could be wiped off the value of the economy every day that lockdown lasts. 

Lord Rose, the former Marks & Spencer boss, said the reintroduction of restrictions was a disaster.

Churches call for exemptions from curbs 

Senior clergy are writing to the Government to question why key elements of services have not been exempted from lockdown.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and the Bishop of London say they will also emphasise the ‘critical role’ that churches play in the community.

In a letter written to the clergy of the Church of England (CoE), Justin Welby, Stephen Cottrell and Sarah Mullally praised the ‘energy, hard work and creativity’ of members which had allowed worship to continue during the pandemic.

‘We are grateful that the new guidelines being introduced on Thursday not only allow churches to remain open for private prayer but also enable online worship to be broadcast from the church building,’ they said.

‘We were cautious about these issues during the first lockdown – perhaps overly so – but in this second lockdown we want to encourage church buildings to remain open for private prayer wherever possible.’

The bishops said that more resources and training would be given to church leaders to enable them to conduct services online.

But they added that the use of sacraments was an integral part of physical services and should not be viewed as an ‘optional extra’ by the Government.

‘My estimate is that for every day it carries on, you can say it is between two and three weeks of recovery time,’ he added. ‘So, if it goes on for a month, that’s possibly a year’s recovery time.’

Mark Littlewood, from the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: ‘We have now reached the point – in terms of both our health and our wealth – where the cure is worse than the disease.’

The Prime Minister was given warnings by his chief scientific and medical advisers that the NHS could be overwhelmed by Covid-19.

But so far the Department of Health has refused to release the dossier that helped tip England back into lockdown. 

The projection of a possible 4,000 daily deaths by Christmas – from Cambridge University in conjunction with Public Health England – significantly outstripped all other estimates.

Meanwhile, senior clergy are writing to the Government to question why ‘certain exemptions’ have not been made.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and the Bishop of London say they will also emphasise the ‘critical role’ that churches play in the community.

In a letter written to the clergy of the Church of England (CoE), Justin Welby, Stephen Cottrell and Sarah Mullally praised the ‘energy, hard work and creativity’ of members which had allowed worship to continue during the pandemic.

‘We are grateful that the new guidelines being introduced on Thursday not only allow churches to remain open for private prayer but also enable online worship to be broadcast from the church building,’ they said.

‘We were cautious about these issues during the first lockdown – perhaps overly so – but in this second lockdown we want to encourage church buildings to remain open for private prayer wherever possible.’

The bishops said that more resources and training would be given to church leaders to enable them to conduct services online.

But they added that the use of sacraments was an integral part of physical services and should not be viewed as an ‘optional extra’ by the Government.

Calling the boffins’ bluff: How No10’s experts manipulated data and drew biased conclusions to ‘terrify’ England into locking down, writes ROSS CLARK

It was the Halloween horror no one had been expecting: a series of mind-boggling graphs and charts presented at Saturday’s Downing Street press conference that purported to show the Covid-19 pandemic was out of control and a second national lockdown was needed.

But do the graphs and charts really support this? ROSS CLARK find outs …

THE HEAT MAP

This chart was designed to show that some hospitals – shown in red – already had more Covid-19 patients than at the peak of the first wave in the spring.

Hospitals shown in amber have more than half as many virus patients as they had then, while green indicates hospitals with fewer than half the number of patients they had at the peak of the first wave.

This chart was designed to show that some hospitals – shown in red – already had more Covid-19 patients than at the peak of the first wave in the spring

This chart was designed to show that some hospitals – shown in red – already had more Covid-19 patients than at the peak of the first wave in the spring

Certainly the chart gave the impression that hospitals were already close to overflowing.

But the truth isn’t nearly as terrifying. 

For while 29 hospitals are shown on the slide, the full dataset, published by NHS England, actually includes 482 NHS and private hospitals in England – at least 232 of which (and probably more as some entries were left blank) had not a single Covid-19 patient on October 27.

This is hardly surprising since official figures showed there were 9,213 patients in hospital with the disease on October 31, compared with 17,172 at the spring peak.

Even back then hospitals were far from full and the Nightingale units were virtually empty.

For while 29 hospitals are shown on the slide, the full dataset, published by NHS England, actually includes 482 NHS and private hospitals in England at least 232 of which had not a single Covid-19 patient on October 27

For while 29 hospitals are shown on the slide, the full dataset, published by NHS England, actually includes 482 NHS and private hospitals in England at least 232 of which had not a single Covid-19 patient on October 27

WHERE CASES ARE ACTUALLY FALLING

Chris Whitty unveiled two charts showing where in England Covid-19 infections were increasing, with brown and yellow zones highlighting where cases were up and blue showing they were down.

‘Virtually across the entire country now there is a significant rate of increase,’ announced the chief medical officer.  

The map, however, begs to differ. In fact, it shows there are 34 districts in England where cases are static or falling.

Two charts showing where in England Covid-19 infections were increasing, with brown and yellow zones highlighting where cases were up and blue showing they were down

Two charts showing where in England Covid-19 infections were increasing, with brown and yellow zones highlighting where cases were up and blue showing they were down

Most remarkably – although it is difficult to spot, and only becomes obvious when you magnify the chart – it reveals that cases have fallen sharply across Merseyside over the past week, and that in parts of Liverpool they have fallen by more than 60 per cent.

This is significant because Liverpool was the first part of the country to be placed into Tier Three restrictions. 

But if such measures appear to be working, why the need for the second national lockdown?

IS GROWTH REALLY EXPONENTIAL? 

One slide – based on data from tests on a randomised sample of the population – showed ‘the prevalence of the disease has been going up extremely rapidly over the past few weeks’.

However, the chart actually suggested that the rate was no longer increasing exponentially, contrary to what Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, predicted in his briefing of September 14.

While the chart shows that in mid-September cases of Covid were doubling almost every week, the most recent figures show that it has taken two and a half weeks for another two-fold rise.

While the chart shows that in mid-September cases of Covid were doubling almost every week, the most recent figures show that it has taken two and a half weeks for another two-fold rise

While the chart shows that in mid-September cases of Covid were doubling almost every week, the most recent figures show that it has taken two and a half weeks for another two-fold rise

REGIONAL RATES

Another slide consists of regional charts based on Office for National Statistics data about the prevalence of Covid-19 in the general population. 

Professor Whitty heralded this as proof that ‘there is an increase in every part of the country apart possibly from the North East, where they have been taking additional measures – and there is some evidence of some flattening but not so far of falling’.

Yet the graph on the slide didn’t tally with that. It instead showed a clear fall in infection numbers in the North East. 

Moreover, the curve is clearly flattening in London, the West Midlands and the South East.

VIRUS SLOWING AMONG MOST VULNERABLE

A further chart shows confirmed Covid-19 cases, week by week, for each region of England, split by age group with under-16s at the bottom and the over-60s at the top. 

Professor Whitty used it to claim that the infection ‘steadily moves up the ages, so it doesn’t remain constrained by any one age group’.

The ripple change in the colours certainly seemed to support this. 

But on closer inspection – only visible if you magnify the image – it becomes clear the chart contains figures in each coloured box for infections per 100,000 people.

What they show is that, crucially, rates of infection are growing much more slowly among the vulnerable over-60s than among young people in September, when there was a surge among students.

It has taken 24 days for over-60 cases to double in the North East and the North West, and 18 days in London. 

In the North West new cases have been flat for four days – suggesting the pandemic is not ripping through the over-60s as previously assumed.

R RATE IN REVERSE 

The R number is the average number infected by a single carrier. If the figure is below one, the epidemic withers; above one and it grows. 

This slide clearly showed that the R number had fallen back in the past three weeks to between 1.1 and 1.3 – suggesting that while the epidemic was still growing, it was doing so at a slower rate.

Yet despite this encouraging sign, Sir Patrick used the slide as an opportunity to explain that the Government has asked academics to produce scenarios of what might happen ‘on assumptions that R stays above one and goes between 1.3 to 1.5 and possibly up over the course of the winter’.

But why would they use such an inflated value, especially given the recent restrictions in Tier Three and Three areas? Naturally, he didn’t say.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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