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Analysis Suggests COVID Lockdowns May Not Have Been as Effective as Thought [CORRECTED]

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CORRECTION, Feb. 17, 2022: The previous version of the story used the word “study” to describe this “working paper.” This version has been corrected to accurately describe the analysis. The previous version of this story also claimed this paper was from researchers at Johns Hopkins University. In fact, only one of the three researchers is from Johns Hopkins. Furthermore, the working paper includes a disclaimer, stating “The views expressed in each working paper are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the institutions that the authors are affiliated with.” The previous version of this story did not mention that some of the studies reviewed in the working paper determined that lockdowns had positive impacts and did not indicate that the numbers reached in the working paper were the result of the averages taken from the studies that had been reviewed. Finally, Health Feedback claims that the findings from this paper could vary depending upon the definition of “lockdown” used and due to the methodology of the researchers of this working paper. According to Health Feedback, lockdown should be defined as “a measure that requires people to stay at home and avoid activity outside the home involving public contact.” However, this paper used the definition “the imposition of at least one compulsory, non-pharmaceutical intervention (NPI).” Using varying definitions of the word lockdown could lead to different conclusions. With regards to the methodology of the analysis, Health Feedback points out that the researchers looked at “studies using the method of economics” and “systematically excluded from consideration any study based on the science of disease transmission.” With regards to the methodology, the researchers outline their methods thoroughly within their paper. We have also adjusted the headline of this article.

COVID-19 lockdowns were not effective, according to a new working paper “under the general direction” of a researcher at Johns Hopkins University.

The working paper evaluated three different kinds of COVID intervention studies: lockdown stringency index studies, which look at overall stringency of a government’s response on a daily basis, shelter in place order studies and non-pharmaceutical intervention studies.

The report included an analysis of 24 studies — separated into the three categories. The conclusions provided in this paper are an average of the results reported by the studies.

“An analysis of each of these three groups support the conclusion that lockdowns have had little to no effect on COVID-19 mortality,” the paper claims.

Regarding the first type of COVID intervention studies, the analysis states, “Stringency index studies find that lockdowns in Europe and the United States only reduced COVID-19 mortality by 0.2 percent on average.”

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In the paper, seven studies were analyzed and averaged to reach the conclusion that lockdowns only affected mortality by 0.2 percent. A chart within the working paper “demonstrates that the studies find that lockdowns, on average, have reduced COVID-19 mortality rates by 0.2 percent (precision-weighted). The results yield a median of -2.4 percent and an arithmetic average of -7.3 percent. Only one of the seven studies, Fuller et al. (2021), finds a significant and (relative to the effect predicted in studies like Ferguson et al. (2020)) substantial effect of lockdowns (-35 percent).”

Discussing the second type of intervention studies, researchers wrote, “SIPOs were also ineffective, only reducing COVID-19 mortality by 2.9 percent on average.”

Studies looking into non-pharmaceutical intervention showed that there is no broad-based evidence that it had an effect on COVID mortality. “Specific NPI studies also find no broad-based evidence of noticeable effects on COVID-19 mortality,” the paper said.

“We find no evidence that lockdowns, school closures, border closures and limiting gatherings have had a noticeable effect on COVID-19 mortality,” the researchers wrote.

The paper pointed out that lockdowns have not been used for any major pandemics in the past century, so there was no real precedent for them being imposed.

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While the lockdowns had nearly no effect on the mortality rate, the analysis did mention that it had damaging effects on the economy.

“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,” the paper reported.

Based on this evidence, the researchers outright condemned the whole idea of lockdowns.

“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.”

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The working paper noted that when the pandemic arrived, there were really only two options for how society could have responded: voluntary behavioral changes or mandated behavioral changes.

Clearly, the U.S. and Europe went the route of mandated changes. But as already concluded by the researchers, this ended up being almost entirely ineffective for mitigating COVID.

The paper looked more specifically at the individual measures taken during COVID — border closures, limited gatherings, school closures — and concluded that individually, these also had little effect.

“Overall, lockdowns and limiting gatherings seem to increase COVID-19 mortality, although the effect is modest (0.6 percent and 1.6 percent, respectively), and border closures ha[d] little to no effect on COVID-19 mortality,” the analysis said.

Researchers did note that school closures had a small effect; however, they said this may be due to “other effects such as seasonal and behavioral effects.”

While the paper concluded that face masks and the closing of some non-essential businesses may have had some impact, overall, the mandated behavioral changes of lockdowns were unhelpful.

This working paper is not the first time the effectiveness of the lockdowns has been disputed. For about a year now, more and more people have been speaking out about the ineffectiveness of lockdowns.

In May 2021, the Editorial Board of the Wall Street Journal said that lockdowns did not stop COVID.

Forbes reported on another study that confirmed this point back in March 2021.

Many have continued to argue that while lockdowns and other mandated measures did not stop COVID outright, they were not entirely unhelpful.

But this new working paper under the leadership of a Johns Hopkins researcher uses meta-data to statistically prove that mandated measures were ineffective.

It is unfortunate lockdowns were so ineffective. Many predicted this, and now we are still dealing with the aftermath of the economic destruction of worldwide lockdowns.

Though it is frustrating that only now, two years after the pandemic, people are finally starting to confirm that lockdowns were a bad idea, at least that false narrative is finally starting to be cracked. And it is not just being cracked by opinion, but by hard data.

Hopefully this growing realization and the acknowledgement of the data will stop our society from ever imposing such harmful behavioral mandates again.

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Abby Liebing is a Hillsdale College graduate with a degree in history. She has written for various outlets and enjoys covering foreign policy issues and culture.
Abby Liebing is a Hillsdale College graduate with a degree in history. She has written for various outlets and enjoys covering foreign policy issues and culture.




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