Lockdowns only reduced COVID mortality by .2%: Study

Ground Report | New Delhi: Lockdowns only reduced COVID mortality; An investigation carried out by members of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore (USA) concludes that lockdowns and mobility restrictions have had little or no effect on public health, and low effectiveness in terms of reducing mortality by Covid. However, these measures have entailed enormous economic and social costs wherever they have been adopted.

Lockdowns only reduced COVID mortality

Specifically, it considers that these measures have contributed to reducing economic activity, increasing unemployment, reducing schooling, causing political unrest, contributing to domestic violence and undermining liberal democracy. And, therefore, the study calls for a review of the confinement and mobility blocking policies, since these strategies are ill-founded and should be rejected as a tool against future pandemics.

The study goes beyond lockdown, referring to any government mandate that directly restricts the ability of people to move (IPM), such as policies that limit internal movement, close schools and businesses, and ban international travel.

The researchers have conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis designed to determine whether there was empirical evidence to support these population ‘lockouts’, given that this was a mandatory non-pharmaceutical intervention. This study used a systematic search and screening procedure in which 18,590 studies were identified that could potentially address the stated belief.

After three levels of screening, 34 studies were selected for inclusion in the meta-analysis. They were separated into three groups: lockdown stringency index studies, shelter-in-place order (SIPO) studies, and NPI-specific studies. An analysis of each of these three groups supports the conclusion that the lockdowns have had little or no effect on Covid mortality.

More specifically, stringency index studies find that lockdowns in Europe and the United States only reduced Covid mortality by 0.2% on average. While lockdowns and lockdowns were also ineffective, they only reduced Covid mortality by 2.9% on average.

Spread of Covid

However, the non-essential closure of businesses seems to have had some effect, reducing Covid mortality by 10.6%, which could be mainly related to the closure of bars. The study also shows that masks can reduce mortality from Covid, but there is only one study that examines the obligation to wear masks, so the researchers do not have much data.

On the effect of border closures, school closures and the limitation of social gatherings on Covid mortality, the study produces precisely weighted results, estimating that it is a reduction of -0.1%, -4.4% and 1 .6%, respectively. In addition, the study finds some evidence that limiting gatherings was counterproductive and increased mortality from Covid.

Regarding the reasons why these measures may have failed, remember that, even if the restrictions initially manage to reduce the spread of Covid, it must be taken into account that the response or behaviour of the population can completely counteract the effect since people respond to reduced risk with behavioural change.

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Another issue to note is that lockdowns and quarantines can have unintended consequences. By isolating an infected person at home with their family, you risk infecting family members with a higher viral load, causing more severe illness. But in addition, closures have limited people’s access to safe outdoor places like beaches, parks and zoos. Likewise, limiting outdoor gatherings has been able to push people to meet in less safe places, in homes or indoor venues.

‘Devastating’ consequences

Regarding the political and economic implications, the study recalls that in the early stages of the pandemic, before the arrival of vaccines and new treatments, society was able to respond in two ways: mandatory behaviour changes or voluntary behaviour changes.

The study fails to demonstrate significant positive effects of mandatory behaviour changes, the authors say “this should draw attention to the role of voluntary behaviour changes” and investigate how voluntary behaviour changes can best be introduced.

But they believe it should be made clear that an important role for government authorities is to provide information so that citizens can voluntarily respond to the pandemic in a way that mitigates their exposure.

And they remember that blocking the mobility of the population has been a unique feature of the Covid pandemic since they have not been used in any pandemic in the last century. However, they dare to conclude that “the lockdowns during the initial phase of the Covid pandemic have had devastating effects”.

The reason for this claim is that they have contributed to reducing economic activity, increasing unemployment, reducing schooling, causing political unrest, contributing to domestic violence and undermining liberal democracy.

“These costs to society must be weighed against the benefits of lockdowns, which our meta-analysis has shown to be marginal at best. Such a standard cost-benefit calculation leads to a strong conclusion: lockdowns should be rejected outright as an instrument of pandemic policy”, they conclude.

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