Critics of stay-at-home orders or lockdowns often argue that the resulting harms to mental and physical health are worse than the direct harms from COVID-19.
A new analysis of excess mortality figures in countries that imposed lockdowns but did not experience high numbers of cases helps refute these claims.
While restrictive measures are associated with harm to health, there is no evidence that lockdowns rather than the pandemic itself are to blame.
Conversely, COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on health in countries, such as Brazil and India, that did not introduce restrictive control measures.
Opponents of government restrictions on personal freedoms during the COVID-19 pandemic argue that lockdowns have taken a greater toll on the public’s health than the disease itself.
They cite factors, such as missed opportunities to screen for illnesses and provide vaccinations, lengthening waiting times for consultations and surgical procedures, and the mental health toll of loneliness and isolation.
People sometimes sum these up as “the cure is worse than the disease.”
Writing in BMJ Global Health, public health experts emphasize that it is challenging to disentangle the health effects of lockdowns from the health effects of the pandemic.
However, their own analysis suggests that it is unlikely that government interventions have been worse for public health — at least in the short term — than the pandemic itself.
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They considered not only overall mortality rates but also disruptions to health services, mental health effects, and the number of suicides.
The research was an international collaboration between scientists in Australia, Denmark, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
To tease apart the health effects of the pandemic and lockdown restrictions, the researchers turned to the World Mortality DatasetTrusted Source.
The dataset includes figures for “excess mortality” in 94 countries between the start of the pandemic in 2020 and the middle of 2021.
It defines “excess mortality” as the difference between the actual number of deaths and the predicted number, given trends before the pandemic.
In Australia and New Zealand, which imposed several lockdowns but experienced relatively few COVID-19 cases, the researchers found no excess mortality during 2020.
If it were true that “the cure is worse than the disease,” lockdowns would have increased death rates in these countries compared with previous years, even in the absence of severe outbreaks.
The researchers found a similar story in South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand, which imposed lockdowns despite having few or no COVID-19 cases.
These countries either recorded no excess mortality or relatively small increases.
On the flip side, countries that imposed few restrictions, including Brazil, Sweden, and Russia, have recorded large numbers of excess deaths throughout the pandemic.
“[I]f areas that locked down but had low COVID-19 cases did not see deaths from other causes rise, lockdowns themselves cannot be the cause of deaths per se,” said lead author Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz, an epidemiologist at the School of Health and Society at the University of Wollongong in Australia.
“It is possible that they have had mixed benefits, but the evidence is not consistent with a situation where lockdowns cause large numbers of deaths in the short term,” he told Medical News Today.
The authors emphasize that the possibility remains that lockdowns have detrimental effects on health, both in the short and long term.
For example, a U.K. study found an increase in heart attacks within the community during the first wave of COVID-19. However, the research was unable to determine whether government restrictions or COVID-19 caused this growth.
Another study suggested that missed cancer screenings could lead to a large increase in cancer deaths in the U.K. But reduced screening could also result from the reallocation of healthcare staff to pandemic-related work.
Commenting on the new analysis for the Science Media Centre in London, Mark Woolhouse, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh in the U.K., said:
“The authors reach the unsurprising conclusion that the short-term impact of lockdown on mortality rates is considerably less than the impact of COVID-19, while correctly acknowledging that it is extremely difficult to disentangle the direct and indirect effects of either. This is a useful exercise but falls far short of demonstrating that the cure will not prove to be worse than the disease in the long term.”
Other researchers are concerned that the long-term consequences of the disease could be far ranging, particularly with potentially lasting effects on the brain.
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How About Bali's PPKM Lockdown.
Is the cure worse than the disease?
Almost every day I run into someone in Bali that does not believe the statistics and doesn't think that we need to be locked down.
Then I cite the latest statistics and my projections if we don't get a handle on this.
They are still not convinced. But this is a democracy and everybody has a right to their opinion whether valid or not.
Here is a facebook post that I felt compelled to share with all those naysayers yesterday.
Bali COVID - 19 related deaths increase exponentially 440% in last six weeks.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news but it's important for everybody to see the reality of what's going on in Bali so that we can all work together to end this pandemic as soon as possible.
For those of you that still think Covid - 19 is not dangerous and are wondering why the federal and state governments have enacted PPKM stage IV restrictions in Bali the last week a picture is worth a thousand words.
Five weeks later it had increased to 44 per day and yesterday it was at 33 a 330% increase.
Don't think because you're young your immune.
I know firsthand of three young children aged 7 to 17 that were diagnosed with the new variant of COVID 19 in just the last couple of weeks.
So, stop the handshaking, hugs for greetings, wear a mask in public and wash everything you touch with alcohol otherwise your name may be added to the chart above.
For those of you that want to be conspiracy theorists please don't waste your time commenting on this post.
I'm doing it because Bali is my home. I have two children and several other family members here.
We have a 17 yr. old business that has been losing money for 1.5 Years due to Covid -19, so we want this to end as much as anyone.
I worry about our +70 staff and their families and hundreds of friends I am concerned about.
I am also concerned about every other foreigner and Indonesian living here and throughout Indonesia and the rest of the inhabitants in this world.
Especially those in Third World countries that can’t get vaccines.
So please do your part. Get vaccinated, wear a mask, wash your hands, and limit social contact to only what is necessary.
Please share this blog if you care.