Lockdowns, school closures and limiting gatherings only reduced COVID mortality by 0.2% at ‘enormous economic and social costs’, study finds
Meta-analysis of 24 studies found Covid lockdown restrictions caused just 0.2% reduction in virus deaths
By CONNOR BOYD DEPUTY HEALTH EDITOR FOR MAILONLINE and GINA MARTINEZ FOR DAILYMAIL.COM
PUBLISHED: 07:15, 2 February 2022 | UPDATED: 17:12, 2 February 2022
The original coronavirus lockdowns had ‘little to no’ effect on pandemic death tolls in the US, UK and Europe, a controversial report suggests.
Economists who carried out a meta-analysis found draconian restrictions imposed in spring 2020 — including stay-at-home orders, compulsory masks and social distancing — only reduced Covid mortality by 0.2 per cent.
They warned that lockdowns caused ‘enormous economic and social costs’ and concluded they were ‘ill-founded and should be rejected as a pandemic policy instrument’ going forward.
The review, led by a Johns Hopkins University professor, argued that border closures had virtually zero effect on Covid mortality, reducing deaths by just 0.1 per cent.
However, closing nonessential shops was found to be the most effective intervention, leading to a 10.6 per cent drop in virus fatalities.
Their report, which has not been peer-reviewed, said that this was probably due to shutting pubs and restaurants where alcohol is consumed. School closures were linked to a smaller 4.4 per cent decrease.
The researchers — who deal in the field of economics, rather than medicine or public health — originally identified 18,590 global studies into lockdowns, which they claim had to be whittled down to just 24 to answer their research question.
Critics have accused them of ‘cherry-picking’ studies to suit their narrative and have raised doubts about the biases of its authors, who have been vocal about lockdowns and vaccine mandates on social media.
Most scientists believe that, before the arrival of vaccines and antivirals, lockdowns had a significant effect on cutting transmission and therefore reducing the number of hospital admissions and deaths caused by Covid.
But there has been a growing consensus that draconian restrictions have led to a rise in non-Covid deaths, thought to be people whose conditions worsened during the pandemic when they could not access healthcare.
In the latest report, the researchers admit their review does not answer ‘why’ lockdowns didn’t achieve their ultimate goal in saving lives but they float a number of explanations.
Revealed: How Covid lockdowns have ravaged the economies of Britain and the US – sending inflation to its highest level in 30 YEARS
The pandemic has battered the economies of the UK and US, with inflation rates rising to their highest level for decades.
Lockdowns pushed consumer spending to its lowest levels, while border closures and staff shortages choked supply runs.
Meanwhile, furlough schemes and the procurement of PPE and vaccines saw unprecedented public spending.
And new mutations could prolong the financial hardship, with economists downgrading their forecasts for the first quarter of 2022 after the emergence of Omicron.
They suggest that lockdowns may have greater unintended consequences than was previously thought.
An example given was that isolating people at home may have led to them passing a higher viral load to their family members, causing more severe illness.
Or closing certain retail businesses may lead to a higher concentration of people in ‘essential’ shops where the risk of transmission is higher.
Another possible theory is that people’s behaviour rebounded after lockdowns squashed case rates so low, they perceived the virus as less of a threat.
They claimed the best explanation for differing Covid death rates in countries was ‘differences in population age and health’ and the ‘quality of the health sector.
But they could not rule out ‘less obvious factors, such as culture, communication, and coincidences’. Covid deaths are also skewed by the volume of testing each country carries out, which many scientists have highlighted as the driving factor behind Britain’s large toll.
The report was led by Steve Hanke, a founder of the Johns Hopkins School of Applied Economics.
He has been an outspoken critic of economically-damaging restrictions throughout the pandemic, describing jab mandates as ‘fascist’ and an open supporter of the Great Barrington Declaration – a controversial alternative strategy endorsed by thousands of top scientists at the start of the pandemic.
The GBR – signed before vaccines were on the horizon – advocated shielding the most elderly and allowing the virus to spread in younger age groups, to build up natural immunity.
The review concluded that lockdowns’ ‘marginal at best’ benefits needed to be compared with their ‘devastating effects’ on the economy and society.