What Are the Negative Effects of COVID-19 Lockdowns?

A year into the pandemic, what can we really say about government interventions to prevent disease?

Gideon M-K; Health Nerd
7 min readMar 23, 2021


Pictured: Stock photo results for “lockdown” are somewhat strange. Source: Pexels

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have been telling a single story. It’s a very compelling narrative, playing into our worst fears and greatest hopes about the pandemic, and it has inspired numerous politicians, scientists, and other experts to try and take action.

The story is simple: the pandemic might be bad, but lockdowns must be worse.

Some have approached this account with some objectivity, and tried to argue that despite the incredible harms of an uncontrolled global pandemic lockdowns are more harmful. Many have, instead, tried to downplay the harms of the pandemic and pretend that it never happened, which has resulted in some truly bizarre arguments about whether people were even actually getting sick (spoiler: they were).

Pictured: NOT a myth invented by the Chinese government, shockingly. Source: Pexels

But after 12 months and a huge amount of data, we can now actually take a look at the harms of government interventions against COVID-19, and see whether they have been a tragedy or a triumph.

While the answer is incredibly hard to come by — none of this is certain, and it will take us decades to truly unpick the impacts of lockdowns vs the pandemic itself — it seems clear that the situation is far less negative than some might have you believe.


The first and most obvious question is a fairly simple one — have lockdowns killed people? The answer is also fairly simple — quite clearly not, at least in the short term.

Not today, Reaper, not today. Source: Pexels

Let me explain.

There’s been a strong narrative that lockdowns are deadly, and while I’ll get to cancer and heart disease in a moment, here I’m just talking about death specifically. If lockdowns/COVID-19 interventions, were associated with an immediate increase…