Lockdowns Are Less Harmful Than Covid-19

Why the evidence suggests that government interventions are not worse than the pandemic itself

Gideon M-K; Health Nerd


Pictured: A road. It’s symbolic, probably. Source: Pexels

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, people across the world have been thrown into a seesaw of restrictions and ongoing epidemics of the disease. We have all been faced, over and over again, with a terrible choice: do something, and potentially cause harm, or do nothing, and let the disease run riot.

It has been, as they say, quite a year.

Ah stock photos, you never fail to be spectacularly pink. Source: Pexels

Now, the problem with this dichotomy is that it inevitably leads to the question — does intervening against Covid-19 cause more damage than the disease itself? Are lockdowns more harmful than coronavirus? Is, as the colloquial saying goes, the cure worse than the disease?

I’ve previously written about this in an article, where I looked at some of the evidence mixed with my opinions, and argued that it’s pretty hard to know. However, as this was just a blog post that I wrote in my own time, it had some obvious shortcomings — I don’t know everything, and there’s obviously evidence that I missed in a short piece.

But I’m a scientist, and there are ways to fix that. Along with some amazing collaborators, including 12 of the leading global experts on lockdown impacts and Covid-19, we assessed whether the evidence indicates that lockdowns are better or worse than the disease itself.

Stock photo results for “covid” are equally delightful. This is titled “Left Fist Punching Water”, which, yes, but leaves us wondering what it has to do with a global pandemic. Ah, the mysteries. Source: Pexels

Our review article was recently published in the BMJ Global Health. Overall, we found that the evidence to date does not indicate that lockdowns are worse than out-of-control Covid-19 epidemics, and that in all likelihood government restrictions against the pandemic have saved lives.

The Science

The type of paper we wrote is what’s called a narrative review — this means we looked through the evidence that we were aware of, and summarized it in a paper. We looked at four…