Lockdowns are defined as the imposition of at least one compulsory, non-pharmaceutical intervention (NPI). NPIs are any government mandate that directly restrict peoples’ possibilities, such as policies that limit domestic movement, close schools and businesses, ban international travel and stay at home orders. These policies are unprecedented in modern history as a means to prevent the spread of a virus. In fact, the Government of Canada's own pandemic preparedness plan from 2018 explicitly cautioned against the use of such measures. With that in mind, what changed that gave public health officials the world over confidence to implement such policies? Let's explore what the science tells us about the impact lockdowns have had on our society, both in terms of preventing the spread of COVID-19 as well as incidental impacts.


Johns Hopkins Concludes Lockdowns have Little to No Public Health Effects

In a meta-analysis of 18592 studies just released in January 2022, commissioned by the Johns Hopkins Institute for Applied Economics, it was concluded that "lockdowns have had little to no public health effects, they have imposed enormous economic and social costs where they have been adopted. In consequence, lockdown policies are ill-founded and should be rejected as a pandemic policy instrument." Lockdowns in Europe and the United States only reduced COVID-19 mortality by 0.2% on average whilst strict shelter in place orders only reduced mortality by 2.9%.

Lockdowns Not Correlated to Death Rate

In a study published towards the end of 2020 by European epidemiologists, they concluded that "stringency of the measures settled to fight pandemia, including lockdown, did not appear to be linked with death rate." They go on to conclude that "countries that already experienced a stagnation or regression of life expectancy, with high income and NCD (non-communicable disease) rates, had the highest price to pay. This burden was not alleviated by more stringent public decisions. Inherent factors have predetermined the Covid-19 mortality: understanding them may improve prevention strategies by increasing population resilience through better physical fitness and immunity."

Lockdown Will Go Down as One of the Greatest Peacetime Policy Failures in Modern History

In a critical analysis published in September 2021 by Douglas Allen from the Department of Economics at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, BC, he concludes the same thing as the thousands of other studies on the subject conclude - lockdowns are not correlated with a reduction of COVID-19 mortality. However, he assesses many other studies as well, and comments on the direct costs of lockdown policies. Here is a snippet of the conclusions:

Education - Lost, delayed, or poor education leads to reduced human capital that has life long negative consequences

School Closures - Creates isolation for children, which is known to increase the risk of mental health conditions. They hurt students from low income families more and inhibit the reporting of child abuse. Having children learn from home meant that parents reduced labour force participation.

Unemployment - Life expectancy is a function of wealth levels. Between 418–2114 excess suicides in Canada based on increased unemployment.

Overdose and Despair - Over the course of 2020 across the U.S. deaths of despair increased between 10–60%. The number of people with thoughts of suicide in the U.S. states with lockdown increased with each passing month, but remained stable in states without lockdown.

Domestic Violence - Much of the increased domestic violence is related to increased alcohol which increased during lockdown.

Healthcare - Estimates suggest that in the U.S. about 1/3 of the excess deaths in 2020 are not Covid-19 deaths, but deaths associated with reduced access to medical care for non-covid related issues.

Lockdowns Killed More Canadians Under 65 than COVID-19

According to a report published by Statistics Canada in July, 2021 and summarized by True North,  5535 Canadians under the age of 65 died because of “indirect consequences” of the pandemic between March 2020 and April 2021. Over the same time period, 1380 Canadians in the same age group died with COVID-19 listed on the death certificate. The excess deaths, as per the Stats Canada report, resulted from things like delayed medical procedures, increased substance use, or a decline in deaths attributable to other causes, such as influenza.