Canadian expert’s research finds lockdown harms are 10 times greater than benefits

Toronto Sun

A closed sign is seen in the window of a small business. PHOTO BY OLIVIER DOULIERY /AFP via Getty Images / Files

You were a strong proponent of lockdowns initially but have since changed your mind. There are a few reasons why I supported lockdowns at first. First, initial data falsely suggested that the infection fatality rate was up to 2–3%, that over 80% of the population would be infected, and modelling suggested repeated lockdowns would be necessary. Second, I am an infectious diseases and critical care physician, and am not trained to make public policy decisions.

I was only considering the direct effects of COVID-19 and my knowledge of how to prevent these direct effects. I was not considering the immense effects of the response to COVID-19 on public health and wellbeing. Emerging data has shown a staggering amount of so-called ‘collateral damage’ due to the lockdowns. This can be predicted to adversely affect many millions of people globally with food insecurity , severe poverty , maternal and under age-5 mortality from interrupted healthcare , infectious diseases deaths from interrupted services , school closures for children , interrupted vaccination campaigns for millions of children, and intimate partner violence for millions of women.

In high-income countries adverse effects also occur from delayed and interrupted healthcare, unemployment, loneliness, deteriorating mental health, increased opioid crisis deaths, and more. Third, a formal cost-benefit analysis of different responses to the pandemic was not done by government or public health experts. Initially, I simply assumed that lockdowns to suppress the pandemic were the best approach. But policy decisions on public health should require a cost-benefit analysis.

Since lockdowns are a public health intervention, aiming to improve the population wellbeing, we must consider both benefits of lockdowns, and costs of lockdowns on the population wellbeing. Once I became more informed, I realized that lockdowns cause far more harm than they prevent. There has never been a full cost-benefit analysis of lockdowns done in Canada. There is a strong long-run relationship between economic recession and public health.

If the government is forced to spend less on these social determinants of health, there will be ‘statistical lives’ lost, that is, people will die in the years to come. Second, I had underestimated the effects of loneliness and unemployment on public health. In the cost-benefit analysis I consider the benefits of lockdowns in preventing deaths from COVID-19, and the costs of lockdowns in terms of the effects of the recession, loneliness, and unemployment on population wellbeing and mortality. I did not consider all of the other so-called ‘collateral damage’ of lockdowns mentioned above.

It turned out that the costs of lockdowns are at least 10 times higher than the benefits. That is, lockdowns cause far more harm to population wellbeing than COVID-19 can. It is important to note that I support a focused protection approach, where we aim to protect those truly at high-risk of COVID-19 mortality, including older people, especially those with severe co-morbidities and those in nursing homes and hospitals. You studied the role modelling played in shaping public opinion.

Popular media focused on absolute numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths independent of context. 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. I found out that in Canada in 2018 there were over 23,000 deaths per month and over 775 deaths per day. In the world in 2019 there were over 58 million deaths and about 160,000 deaths per day.

This means that on November 21 this year, COVID-19 accounted for 5.23% of deaths in Canada , and 3.06% of global deaths. We need to consider the tragic COVID-19 numbers in context. We need to focus on cost-benefit analysis — repeated or prolonged lockdowns cannot be based on COVID-19 numbers alone. We need to keep schools open because children have very low morbidity and mortality from COVID-19, and are less likely to be infected by, and have a low likelihood to be the source of transmission of, SARS-CoV-2.

With universal masking in hospitals, asymptomatic health care workers should be allowed to continue to work, even if infected, thus preserving the healthcare workforce.

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Source: Anthony Furey | Toronto Sun

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