Lockdown: Does it help?
Lockdown: Does it help? Flash 90

More than 12,000 experts have joined a movement called the Great Barrington Declaration and say the lockdown approach is having a devastating impact on physical and mental health as well as on society as a whole.

They call for protection to be focused on the vulnerable, while healthy people get on with their lives.

They are joined by Israeli physicians and scientists such as Internal medicine and gastroenterology specialist and Hesder Yeshiva in Shaalvim graduate Dr. Shmuel Rochberger, who calls for seriously considering "the other approach - the one supported by hundreds of doctors and scientists in the State of Israel - to better protect adults and allow healthy young people to acquire immunity and thus significantly reduce mortality and serious morbidity and prevent economic and human destruction."

The Great Barrington Declaration, started in the U.S., has now been signed by 12,000 scientists and medical experts across the globe as well as 114,000 members of the public.

Experts who have signed it include Oxford University epidemiologist Dr. Sunetra Gupta, Nottingham University self-harm expert Prof Ellen Townsend, and Edinburgh University disease modeller Dr Paul McKeigue.

They say keeping the lockdown policies in place until a vaccine is available would cause "irreparable damage, with the underprivileged disproportionately harmed".

The Great Barrington Declaration website includes mirror sites in Hebrew, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, German, Swedish, and Russian.

Critics' position "simply does not withstand any scrutiny"

The American Institute for Economic Research (AEIR) cites detractors of the initiative, including Yale epidemiologist Gregg Gonsalves, who considers their proposal akin to a suggestion that society “cull[] the herd of the sick and disabled. It’s grotesque.”

"It is hard to see where Gonsalves reads into the Declaration," says AEIR, "which seeks to balance the interests of all demographics, a call to 'cull[] . . . the sick and disabled.' This accusation is merely part of the drama in what has become coronavirus theater."

They continue: "Gonsalves’s more measured, and conceivably legitimate, argument is that, since around fifty percent of the United States population is vulnerable, those most likely to experience severe illness cannot simply be separated out from the rest of society. Some version of this notion – that the strategy is logistically unfeasible and therefore must be discarded– is the most prevalent critique of the document...

"Oxfam recently published a report concluding that 130 million more people will probably die of starvation due to supply chain disruptions resulting from lockdowns around the world. As Time magazine explains, that is exponentially more people than will succumb to the virus itself. The CDC has estimated the probable occurrence of more than 93,000 “non-Covid ‘excess deaths’ this year, including 42,427 from cardiovascular conditions, 10,686 from diabetes and 3,646 from cancer. Many are due to government shutdowns of non-essential medical care.”

In the end, the AEIR concludes that the critics' position "simply does not withstand any scrutiny": "Critics of the Great Barrington Declaration correctly observe that we will not be able to prevent every death from coronavirus among the vulnerable. But their argument rests on the false assumption that preventing coronavirus deaths is more important than anything else, and while efforts can be made to mitigate collateral damage, in the end all must give way to this overarching goal.

"Rather, like all else in life, mitigation efforts must be balanced against the injury those measures cause. Since lockdowns will probably cause more deaths by starvation alone than the coronavirus, never mind the myriad other harms, the critics’ position simply does not withstand any scrutiny. By contrast, the writers of the Great Barrington Declaration expressly recognize both sides of the equation and seek to minimize coronavirus deaths among the vulnerable and suffering inflicted upon the nonvulnerable. It should be obvious which is the better approach," concludes the American Institute for Economic Research.