Thursday, February 3, 2022

Lockdowns as Policy Failure

Now they tell us. Using the best scientific methods, researchers at Johns Hopkins University have discovered that lockdowns do not work. Those fearful government leaders who chose to shut down their cities, their states and their countries in order to protect against the pandemic have now been proved wrong.

And, as we have reported over and over again on this blog, lockdowns are costly. They cost economic activity. They cost mental health. They cost childhood mental and emotional development. 

If we are doing a cost benefit analysis, the costs seem largely to outweigh the benefits.

Here, from the Hopkins study, via Powerline and Maggie’s Farm.

This systematic review and meta-analysis are designed to determine whether there is empirical evidence to support the belief that “lockdowns” reduce COVID-19 mortality. Lockdowns are defined as the imposition of at least one compulsory, non-pharmaceutical intervention (NPI). NPIs are any government mandate that directly restrict peoples’ possibilities, such as policies that limit internal movement, close schools and businesses, and ban international travel. 

This study employed a systematic search and screening procedure in which 18,590 studies are identified that could potentially address the belief posed. After three levels of screening, 34 studies ultimately qualified. Of those 34 eligible studies, 24 qualified for inclusion in the meta-analysis. 

They were separated into three groups: lockdown stringency index studies, shelter-in-place-order (SIPO) studies, and specific NPI studies. An analysis of each of these three groups support the conclusion that lockdowns have had little to no effect on COVID-19 mortality. More specifically, stringency index studies find that lockdowns in Europe and the United States only reduced COVID-19 mortality by 0.2% on average. SIPOs were also ineffective, only reducing COVID-19 mortality by 2.9% on average. Specific NPI studies also find no broad-based evidence of noticeable effects on COVID-19 mortality.

While this meta-analysis concludes that lockdowns have had little to no public health effects, they have imposed enormous economic and social costs where they have been adopted. In consequence, lockdown policies are ill-founded and should be rejected as a pandemic policy instrument.

Here are a few more salient paragraphs:

Overall, we conclude that lockdowns are not an effective way of reducing mortality rates during a pandemic, at least not during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our results are in line with the World Health Organization Writing Group (2006), who state, “Reports from the 1918 influenza pandemic indicate that social-distancing measures did not stop or appear to dramatically reduce transmission […]

In Edmonton, Canada, isolation and quarantine were instituted; public meetings were banned; schools, churches, colleges, theaters, and other public gathering places were closed; and business hours were restricted without obvious impact on the epidemic.” Our findings are also in line with Allen’s (2021) conclusion: “The most recent research has shown that lockdowns have had, at best, a marginal effect on the number of Covid 19 deaths.”

How to explain the failures of lockdown policies? 

Mandates only regulate a fraction of our potential contagious contacts and can hardly regulate nor enforce handwashing, coughing etiquette, distancing in supermarkets, etc. Countries like Denmark, Finland, and Norway that realized success in keeping COVID-19 mortality rates relatively low allowed people to go to work, use public transport, and meet privately at home during the first lockdown. In these countries, there were ample opportunities to legally meet with others.

At what cost the lockdowns?

Unintended consequences may play a larger role than recognized. We already pointed to the possible unintended consequence of SIPOs, which may isolate an infected person at home with his/her family where he/she risks infecting family members with a higher viral load, causing more severe illness. But often, lockdowns have limited peoples’ access to safe (outdoor) places such as beaches, parks, and zoos, or included outdoor mask mandates or strict outdoor gathering restrictions, pushing people to meet at less safe (indoor) places. Indeed, we do find some evidence that limiting gatherings was counterproductive and increased COVID-19 mortality

In conclusion, lockdowns as public policy were a monumental failure:

The use of lockdowns is a unique feature of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lockdowns have not been used to such a large extent during any of the pandemics of the past century.

However, 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.

Obviously, word is getting around. Countries in Europe, from Great Britain to Denmark are opening up. They are discarding the ineffective and damaging lockdown policies.

The New York Post reports:

Denmark is one of those countries that the American left loves to point to and say, “Why can’t we be more like them?” This week, for once, there should be bipartisan agreement to this sentiment.

The Scandinavian nation has announced COVID no longer poses a threat to society, and is ending nearly all of its restrictions.

Ah, yes. But safety cultists in America insist that people still wear masks and avoid social contact:

The realization that the COVID emergency is over and life should get back to normal has dawned on much of Europe, but across parts of America, and right here in New York City, our feckless leaders can’t take yes for an answer. So, for God’s sake, What metric are they looking for to end this? Give us a number of deaths, cases, hospitalizations, infection fatality rate, anything, that means we can ease restrictions.

Increasingly, it appears that governors like Kathy Hochul and Gavin Newsom, who insist our children wear masks all day, while they gallivant about maskless, have no intention of ever letting this end. If they did they would be setting guidelines for easing restrictions, instead they plot out an endless quagmire of shifting events and possible variants.

The Post examines the decline in attendance at Broadway shows. In addition, it explains that mask mandates are making us look like perfect fools:

In today’s Gotham, attendance at Broadway shows is in the tank compared to pre-pandemic levels. Confusing, unenforced mask mandates still linger from the subway to the stadiums, and all while the rest of the world accepts that the Omicron variant and its less severe illness marked the end, not a new beginning, of the COVID crisis.

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