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Landmark study looking at 20,000 papers on global impact of lockdowns finds benefits were ‘negligible’ but collateral costs ‘staggering’ – ‘Biggest policy mistake in our lifetime’

Lockdown Benefits “Drop in the Bucket Compared to the Costs”, Landmark Study Finds

Who would have thought it? A new landmark meta-study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University and Sweden’s Lund University has concluded that that draconian restrictions imposed on the British population in the spring of 2020 saved fewer than 1,700 lives in England and Wales and were “a drop in the bucket compared to the staggering collateral costs”. The Telegraph has more.

Scientists from Johns Hopkins University and Lund University examined almost 20,000 studies on measures taken to protect populations against Covid across the world.

Their findings suggest that lockdowns in response to the first wave of the pandemic, when compared with less strict policies adopted by the likes of Sweden, prevented as few as 1,700 deaths in England and Wales. In an average week there are around 11,000 deaths in England and Wales.

The report authors said their findings showed that the draconian measures had a “negligible impact” on Covid mortality and were a “policy failure of gigantic proportions”.

Johns Hopkins is one of the most respected medical schools in the world and became known during the pandemic for its Covid dashboard measuring cases and deaths all over the world.

The study’s authors conclude: “The science of lockdowns is clear; the data are in: the deaths saved were a drop in the bucket compared to the staggering collateral costs imposed.”

The detrimental impact of lockdown on children’s health and education, on economic growth and its contribution to large increases in public debt has become increasingly clear since the policy was introduced.

However, The Telegraph recently revealed that a secretive government unit worked with social media companies during the pandemic in an attempt to curtail criticism of controversial lockdown policies.

The Covid Disinformation Unit monitored social media and asked tech companies to remove posts it considered to be “potentially harmful content”.

Britain’s first lockdown, in March 2020, was introduced on the basis of modelling exercises from Prof Neil Ferguson which had predicted there could be more than 500,000 deaths in the UK, without action to stop the spread of the virus.

His research had suggested that even with mitigations such as social distancing, and household quarantines for Covid cases, there could be at least 250,000 deaths, unless further measures were taken.

The new study on the impact of lockdowns is published in a report by the Institute of Economic Affairs out on Monday.

Across Europe, countries which embarked on lockdowns saw 6,000 fewer deaths than if they had embarked on a less draconian approach, while the US could have seen 4,000 fewer deaths, they conclude.

By contrast, modelling by Prof Ferguson and his colleagues from Imperial College London in March 2020 had predicted that, without action, the UK could see 510,000 deaths from Covid, with 2.2 million in the United States.

After lockdown was imposed, the scientist suggested that “intense social distancing and other interventions now in place” could reduce that figure to 20,000 in the UK.

The Covid Inquiry is set to examine the Government’s decision making during the pandemic but it has already been the subject of significant criticism relating to its speed, scope and transparency.

Researchers for the Johns Hopkins study said the findings showed that lockdowns had been “a global policy failure of gigantic proportions”.

Co-author Dr. Lars Jonung, professor emeritus at the Knut Wicksell Centre for Financial Studies at Sweden’s Lund University, said the study was the first to fully evaluate the impact of mandatory restrictions.

He said: “It demonstrates that lockdowns were a failed promise. They had negligible health effects but disastrous economic, social and political costs to society. Most likely lockdowns represent the biggest policy mistake in modern times.”

Prof. Steve H. Hanke, co-author and professor of applied economics and co-director of the Institute for Applied Economics, Global Health, and the Study of Business Enterprise at Johns Hopkins University: said: “When it comes to Covid, epidemiological models have many things in common: dubious assumptions, hair-raising predictions of disaster that miss the mark, and few lessons learned.”

The researchers examined 19,646 potentially relevant studies, selecting 22 with standardised measures for meta analysis.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: The conclusions of Dr. Lars Jonung and Prof. Steve Hanke et al are remarkably similar to those of Kevin Bardosh, which we reported on last week. Having reviewed 600 papers looking at the impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions during the pandemic, Bardosh concluded that the collateral damage was “substantial, wide-ranging and will leave behind a legacy of harm for hundreds of millions of people”.

Stop Press 2: The Telegraph has another story, providing more detail on the researchers’ findings, here. In addition, two of the researchers have written a comment piece arguing that “lockdowns were a colossal global policy failure that should never be imposed again”.