It’s final: Lockdowns don’t work

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Being Right


This is becoming repetitive already but it’s very much worth repeating: lockdowns don’t work and a new study has come out re-confirming that fact.

Medical experts Eran Bendavid, Christopher Oh, Jay Bhattacharya, and John Ioannidis published just two weeks ago at the European Journal of Clinical Investigation their research on “Assessing Mandatory Stay-at-Home and Business Closure Effects on the Spread of COVID-19.”

They studied “COVID-19 case growth in relation to any NPI [non-pharmaceutical interventions; i.e., lockdowns: mandatory stay-at-home and business closures] implementation in subnational regions of 10 countries: England, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, and the US.” They then examined “case growth in Sweden and South Korea, two countries that did not implement mandatory stay-at-home and business closures, as comparison countries for the other eight countries (16 total comparisons).”

Their findings? “While small benefits cannot be excluded, we do not find significant benefits on case growth of more restrictive NPIs. Similar reductions in case growth may be achievable with less restrictive interventions.” In short: there was no practical difference in effect between countries that locked down and those that didn’t. Or even shorter: whatever benefits lockdowns give are dwarfed by their enormous costs.

This study was complemented by Canadian infectious disease expert Dr. Ari Joffe in his study “COVID-19: Rethinking the Lockdown Groupthink” (November 2020). Here, he stated that “The costs of lockdowns are at least 10 times higher than the benefits. That is, lockdowns cause far more harm to population well-being than COVID-19 can.”


And to reiterate: lockdowns “adversely affect many millions of people globally with food insecurity [82-132 million more people], severe poverty [70 million more people], maternal and under age-5 mortality from interrupted healthcare [1.7 million more people], infectious diseases deaths from interrupted services [millions of people with tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV], school closures for children [affecting children’s future earning potential and lifespan], interrupted vaccination campaigns for millions of children, and intimate partner violence for millions of women.”

Why do lockdown policies continue? In two words: fear mongering. As Dr. Joffe points out: the “Popular media focused on absolute numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths independent of context. There has been a sheer one-sided focus on preventing infection numbers. The economist Paul Frijters wrote that it was ‘all about seeming to reduce risks of infection and deaths from this one particular disease, to the exclusion of all other health risks or other life concerns.’ Fear and anxiety spread, and we elevated COVID-19 above everything else that could possibly matter … we ignored hidden ‘statistical deaths’ … we preferred immediate benefits to even larger benefits in the future, we disregarded evidence that disproved our favorite theory.”

And let no one say that these are new findings. People have been warning about lockdowns (including this column) as early as April-May 2020. Just one example: As summarized by Daniel Horowitz, “four professors with backgrounds ranging from medicine to economics attempted to quantify the number of lives lost from the devastation of the lockdown itself — something our government failed to simulate when it embarked on this novel policy. Using health and labor data as well as various actuarial tables, they projected 65,000 lives lost per month of lockdown in the US — greater than the loss from the virus. That number was calculated by dividing the estimated $1.1 trillion lost from economic productivity per month of lockdown by $17 million because the best estimates predict one life lost from suicide, alcohol or drug abuse, or stress-induced illnesses per $17 million lost.” (see “The COVID-19 shutdown will cost Americans millions of years of life” Scott Atlas, John Birge, Ralph Keeney, and Alexander Lipton, The Hill, May 25, 2020)

And information coming in keeps proving the foregoing. Just take the US States of California and Florida: the former with strict lockdown and mask policies, the latter without. The result? California’s deaths per million went up 505%. Florida? Deaths per million up by 53%.

Finally, there is the country lockdown lovers love to bash: Sweden. But as IEEE Spectrum’s Vaclav Smil points out, “Don’t be Too Quick to Judge Sweden’s COVID-19 Policy” (Dec. 29, 2020): “In October 2020 the Swedish [excess all-cause mortality] rate was marginally lower than in France, 30% lower than in the United States, only half as high as in Spain — but 2.5 times higher than in Finland and five times higher than in Germany.” And by the 45th week of 2020, the “Swedish mortality remained well below the expected level and even below the Norwegian rate.” Meanwhile, “France, Italy, Spain and Belgium had, once again, high excess mortalities, and only the Finnish mortality was well below the Swedish rate.”

The ultimate tragedy of this pandemic may very well be the institution of lockdown measures. Aside from the gross loss of life and livelihood it wrought, there’s also sadly the willing acceptance by many to forego their civil liberties rather than confront fear with reason.


Jemy Gatdula is a Senior Fellow of the Philippine Council for Foreign Relations and a Philippine Judicial Academy law lecturer for constitutional philosophy and jurisprudence.

Twitter @jemygatdula