A systematic review and meta-analysis by a team of economists at Johns Hopkins takes a close look at the practice of government-mandated lockdowns to prevent COVID-19-related mortality risk.

The new findings, submitted to the Studies in Applied Economics series from the Johns Hopkins Institute for Applied Economics, Global Health, and the Study of Business Enterprise, cite analysis of 24 previously published studies to express the authors’ claim that lockdowns have had “little to no effect on public health” in response to the ongoing pandemic.

Moreover, the study argues that these measures – stratified into categories including shelter-in-place orders (SIPOs) and non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) – have harmed the economic and social situation in the areas where they have been commissioned. “As a result, containment policies are ill-founded and should be rejected as an instrument of pandemic policy,” the authors wrote.

The new analysis was led by authors Jonas Herby, special adviser at the Copenhagen Center for Policy Studies; Lars Jonung, Emeritus Professor of Economics at Lung University in Sweden; and Steven H. Hanke, professor of applied economics and founder, co-director of the aforementioned Johns Hopkins Institute.

Hanke is also a Senior Fellow and Director of the Troubled Currencies Project at the Cato Institute, a currency and commodities trader.

The authors cited a trio of concepts, including 2 previous studies, spurring their interest in assessing associations between lockdowns and COVID-19-related mortality: a 2020 trial submitted to the National Bureau of Economic Research suggesting a decrease daily COVID-19 mortality rate within 20-30 days “after each region has experienced 25 cumulative deaths;” another study suggesting that government policies – including those set out in lockdown mandates – are “strongly driven” by those initiated in other countries; and the authors’ argument that there was “no clear negative correlation” between degree of pandemic lockdown and COVID-19 deaths in spring 2020.

“Today, the question remains open whether the lockdowns had a large and significant effect on mortality from COVID-19,” the authors wrote. “We answer this question by evaluating the current academic literature on the relationship between lockdowns and COVID-19-related death rates.”

NPI was used to describe any government mandate that directly restricted citizens’ “opportunities”, excluding any government recommendations, information campaigns, access to mass testing, voluntary social distancing, etc. mandatory face masking, and so on. “Lockouts” were defined as ≥ 1 NPI as described by the authors

Eligible studies were published before July 1, 2020 and observed the effect of lockdowns on COVID-19-related mortality rates. The authors focused on studies examining “the true impact of lockdowns on COVID-19-related death rates based on recorded cross-sectional mortality data and a difference-in-difference counterfactual approach.” Of 1048 trials observed, 34 fulfilled their eligibility criteria.

Based on the Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker (OxCGRT) – a database from the University of Oxford Blavatnik School of Government collating global policy responses to the pandemic stratified by 23 indicators, including school closures , travel restrictions and vaccination policy – just Oxford COVID -19 Government Response Tracker (OxCGRT)

1 of the 186 observable countries did not impose ≥1 NPI before the end of March 2020, during the global wave of COVID-19 cases.

Using a stringency index informed by OxCGRT data, the authors reported that the average NPI in Europe and the United States reduced COVID-19 mortality by 0.2% compared to COVID-19 policies based on government recommendations.

“(SIPOs) were also ineffective,” the authors wrote. “They only reduced COVID-19 mortality by 2.9%.”

The team further reported a 10.6% reduction in the death rate from COVID-19 in regions that closed non-essential businesses, as well as potentially supporting – but limited – evidence of masking mandates. for reducing mortality.

“The effect of border closures, school closures and limiting gatherings on mortality from COVID-19 yields precisely weighted estimates of -0.1%, -4.4% and 1.6 %, respectively,” the authors wrote. “Lockdowns (compared to no lockdown) also do not reduce mortality from COVID-19.”

The team concluded from their research that lockdowns are not effective in reducing death rates during a pandemic, citing among their observed justifications that “even if lockdowns are successful in initially reducing the spread of COVID-19, the behavioral response can completely counteract the effect, as people react to the lower risk by changing their behavior.

“If the closure of bars and restaurants drops the prevalence of the disease towards zero, the demand for costly disease prevention efforts like social distancing and increased emphasis on hygiene also drops towards zero, and the disease will be back,” they wrote.