This is a massive meta-analysis conducted by the prestigious Johns Hopkins University. The researchers reviewed 34 different studies and arrived at the conclusion that lockdowns have had little positive effect.
It’s a 62-page study, so I’m just going to skip to the conclusion and summarize their findings here:
Public health experts and politicians have – based on forecasts in epidemiological studies such as that of Imperial College London (Ferguson et al. (2020) – embraced compulsory lockdowns as an effective method for arresting the pandemic. But, have these lockdown policies been effective in curbing COVID-19 mortality? This is the main question answered by our meta-analysis.
Adopting a systematic search and title-based screening, we identified 1,048 studies published by July 1st, 2020, which potentially look at the effect of lockdowns on mortality rates. To answer our question, we focused on studies that examine the actual impact of lockdowns on COVID-19 mortality rates based on registered cross-sectional mortality data and a counterfactual difference-in-difference approach. Out of the 1,048 studies, 34 met our eligibility criteria.
Overall, our meta-analysis fails to confirm that lockdowns have had a large, significant effect on mortality rates. Studies examining the relationship between lockdown strictness (based on the OxCGRT stringency index) find that the average lockdown in Europe and the United States only reduced COVID-19 mortality by 0.2% compared to a COVID-19 policy based solely on recommendations. Shelter-in-place orders (SIPOs) were also ineffective. They only reduced COVID-19 mortality by 2.9%.
Studies looking at specific NPIs (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.
However, closing non-essential businesses seems to have had some effect (reducing COVID-19 mortality by 10.6%), which is likely to be related to the closure of bars.
Also, masks may reduce COVID-19 mortality, but there is only one study that examines universal mask mandates. 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. Lockdowns (compared to no lockdowns) also
do not reduce COVID-19 mortality.
So, the only thing that had any noticeable effect on mortality was closing down the bars and nightclubs, which makes sense because people are often crammed into them at close proximity.
Everything else was basically ineffective.
The authors of the study continue:
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.”
They then go on to theorize why lockdowns don’t work:
Our main conclusion invites a discussion of some issues. Our review does not point out why lockdowns did not have the effect promised by the epidemiological models of Imperial College London (Ferguson et al. (2020). We propose four factors that might explain the difference between our conclusion and the view embraced by some epidemiologists.
First, people respond to dangers outside their door. When a pandemic rages, people believe in social distancing regardless of what the government mandates. So, we believe that Allen (2021) is right, when he concludes, “The ineffectiveness [of lockdowns] stemmed from individual changes in behavior: either non-compliance or behavior that mimicked lockdowns.”
This makes sense. If people sense danger, they will respond accordingly, regardless of what the government tells them to do. People are not simply lemmings who will walk straight off a cliff absent government intervention and paternalism.
Second, 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.
Might not be wise to say this out loud or else we’ll have police officers in public restrooms exhorting people to wash their hands.
Third, even if lockdowns are successful in initially reducing the spread of COVID-19, the behavioral response may counteract the effect completely, as people respond to the lower risk by changing behavior. As Atkeson (2021) points out, the economic intuition is straightforward. If closing bars and restaurants causes the prevalence of the disease to fall toward zero, the demand for costly disease prevention efforts like social distancing and increased focus on hygiene also falls towards zero, and the disease will return.
In other words, even if a policy works at stopping the spread of a disease, the public will conclude that the disease no longer poses a threat and go back to living like normal, allowing the disease to return.
Fourth, 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.
People have been saying this since almost the beginning. I would be interested in learning just how much limiting gatherings increased mortality.
The authors then discuss the policy implications:
In the early stages of a pandemic, before the arrival of vaccines and new treatments, a society can respond in two ways: mandated behavioral changes or voluntary behavioral changes. Our study fails to demonstrate significant positive effects of mandated behavioral changes (lockdowns). This should draw our focus to the role of voluntary behavioral changes. Here, more research is needed to determine how voluntary behavioral changes can be supported. But it should be clear that one important role for government authorities is to provide information so that citizens can voluntarily respond to the pandemic in a way that mitigates their exposure.
This would only be possible if governments hadn’t completely incinerated what little credibility and trust they had with the public due to their heavy-handed responses to the pandemic, and their doubling-down on failure.
In other words, the government probably can’t even successfully perform the “source of information” role in the pandemic anymore. Why would anyone trust a word the government says now?
Finally, allow us to broaden our perspective after presenting our meta-analysis that focuses on the following question: “What does the evidence tell us about the effects of lockdowns on mortality?” We provide a firm answer to this question: The evidence fails to confirm that lockdowns have a significant effect in reducing COVID-19 mortality. The effect is little to none.
The verdict is in.
But the authors don’t stop there:
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.
It’s difficult to overstate just how disastrous Western governments’ responses to Covid-19 have been. Even when the policies are inevitably abandoned, we will all be dealing with the fallout for years to come.
In fact, given the uprisings we see unfolding presently, Western governments’ Covid-19 policies may ultimately go down in the history books as the primary cause of many of these governments’ downfalls.
Don’t get me wrong; if indeed there is a wave of uprisings all across the Western world that leads to the toppling of governments (a “Western Spring” of sorts, in the vein of the “Arab Spring”), it will not be solely because of the lockdowns. It will more than likely be that the lockdowns were the straw that broke the camel’s back–the thing that finally pushed people past their breaking points.
It’s not as if Western governments enjoyed widespread public trust and support prior to the lockdowns. For many of them, the opposite was true.
Covid-19 may have simply been the thing that caused public trust and confidence in them to plummet past the point of no return.
Do you hear the media talking about this study? Do you hear any of the Public Health Authorities discussing this study?
And it’s not as if it comes from a “fringe” or disreputable source. This is Johnny Hopkins University.
You have to “do your own research” in order to find out that studies like this have been published.
And yet the idea of “doing your own research” is denigrated far and wide by the corporate media and the sneering Covidiots on social media.
“Oh, so you know more than a doctor does, then?“
No, but I can read studies conducted by doctors and scientists and become more informed that way.
I guarantee you the average “anti-vaxxer” is significantly more informed and educated on both Covid-19 and the vaccine shots than the average Expert Truster™ who watches cable news and believes everything Anthony Fauci says.