Police enforcing lockdown regulations
Police enforcing lockdown regulationsPolice spokesperson

A meta-analysis on the role of lockdowns in limiting the spread of coronavirus has concluded that their impact is negligible and that considering the negative social and economic impact, they constitute a failed public policy.

The review was conducted by three researchers from The John Hopkins Institute for Applied Economics, Global Health, and the Study of Business Enterprise. They identified 1,048 studies looking into the effect of lockdown on mortality rates, and included 34 based on their meeting eligibility criteria.

“Studies examining the relationship between lockdown strictness … find that the average lockdown in Europe and the United States only reduced COVID-19 mortality by 0.2%,” they wrote, adding that, “shelter-in-place orders (SIPOs) were also ineffective. They only reduced COVID-19 mortality by 2.9%.

“Studies looking at specific [interventions] (lockdown vs. no lockdown, facemasks, closing non-essential businesses, border closures, school closures, and limiting gatherings) also find no broad-based evidence of noticeable effects on COVID-19 mortality,” they added.

Even more strikingly, the meta-analysis showed that, “The effect of border closures, school closures and limiting gatherings on COVID-19 mortality yields precision-weighted estimates of -0.1%, -4.4%, and 1.6%, respectively” – that is to say, such measures actually increased mortality rates in the most part.

The researchers also noted that their findings tallied with those of the World Health Organization which analyzed reports from the Spanish flu of 1918 and found that “social-distancing measures did not stop or appear to dramatically reduce transmission.”

The report suggested a number of reasons why lockdowns are ineffective. They posited that closing down non-essential commerce merely diverted excursions to businesses defined as essential, with a resulting lack of impact on the number of social contacts between people. They also suggested that people might actually have enough sense to limit social contacts of their own accord at a time when they perceived “dangers outside their door,” such that countries without lockdown restrictions (such as Sweden) experienced a similar effect on infection and mortality rates as those where lockdowns were legislated and rigidly enforced.

In summation, the authors concluded that, “The evidence fails to confirm that lockdowns have a significant effect in reducing COVID-19 mortality. The effect is little to none.”

Furthermore, “Lockdowns during the initial phase of the COVID-19 pandemic have had devastating effects. They have contributed to reducing economic activity, raising unemployment, reducing schooling, causing political unrest, contributing to domestic violence, and undermining liberal democracy. These costs to society must be compared to the benefits of lockdowns, which our meta-analysis has shown are marginal at best. Such a standard benefit-cost calculation leads to a strong conclusion: lockdowns should be rejected out of hand as a pandemic policy instrument.”