Professor Gives ‘Final Assessment’ on COVID Lockdowns

By Marnie Cathcart
Marnie Cathcart
Marnie Cathcart
Marnie Cathcart is a reporter based in Edmonton.
January 30, 2023Updated: January 31, 2023

Government-mandated stay-at-home orders, school and business shutdowns, mandatory face masks, and other non-pharmaceutical interventions to stop the spread of COVID-19 had “little to no effect” on mortality while increasing excess “collateral deaths,” according to a recent essay.

“Widespread, economy-wide lockdown policies were a disaster. They had only marginal effects on the ultimate number of deaths, but imposed enormous costs,” says an essay by Douglas Allen, economics professor at Simon Fraser University, and published by the Fraser Institute on Jan. 19.

Allen previously wrote four peer-reviewed essays on the issue. His latest essay, titled “Lockdown: A Final Assessment,” marks his final instalment.

He told The Epoch Times that lockdowns “will go down in history as the greatest of peacetime policy disasters.”

Allen said that when he first started assessing data for his essays, he estimated the costs of lockdowns just in the first year to be “141 times any benefits.” He said this was an “enormous underestimate.”

“During COVID, we did the equivalent of killing thousands of lives ‘to save one,'” he said.

After combining all lockdowns and their resulting effects, the end result was “grossly inaccurate cost/benefit estimates,” according to the essay, published as part of a series titled “COVID-19 Lessons We Should Have Learned.”

Allen’s fourth essay in the series, “Why Did Jurisdictions Repeatedly Use Inefficient Lockdowns During the COVID-19 Pandemic?” noted that governments got into a “’double down’ political equilibrium.” He said the world’s governments “panicked” in February and March of 2020 and “concluded that only a severe lockdown could isolate the virus and stop it from spreading.”

“They quickly became aware of the failure and cost of this action and were faced with a choice: They could admit their terrible mistake or double down, continue with the policy, and hope that an endemic state would come soon,” Allen wrote.

Epoch Times Photo
Chief Public Health Officer of Canada Theresa Tam appears via video conference as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attends a news conference in Ottawa on May 4, 2021. (The Canadian Press/Adrian Wyld)

The latest essay, which examined two years of research following declaration of the pandemic, criticized the lockdown policies as a “radical and untried social policy.”

Those measures were initially expressed in terms of reducing the load on hospitals and preventing overrun of the health-care system. However, governments continued to enforce lockdowns, the essay said.

Allen wrote in his fourth essay that government officials and politicians repeated over and over the same “ineffective but extremely costly policies,” even when the overall lethality of the virus declined and abilities to treat it increased.

One study cited by the latest essay calculated a breakdown of excess deaths attributed to COVID-19 directly and those deaths attributed to lockdowns. The study concluded that “COVID excess deaths were 63 percent of excess mortality, and that lockdowns increased all-cause mortality,” basically offsetting any lives saved from lockdowns.

‘Collateral Deaths’

Lockdowns also caused “collateral deaths,” said the “final assessment” essay, noting that widespread changes to societal behaviour increased mortality in some cases, such as due to missed regular medical checkups out of fear of exposure to COVID-19.

“Estimates in the U.S. show that there were 171,000 excess non-COVID-19 deaths through to the end of 2021. By that time the U.S. had recorded 825,929 COVID-19 deaths. However, if lockdowns only reduce deaths by 3.2 percent, then only 27,303 lives were saved by lockdowns,” the essay said.

Allen wrote that governments acted on faulty or incomplete data in crafting their pandemic policies.

“All of the early models made death predictions that were off by factors of 10 or more,” he wrote, citing the infamous model produced by Imperial College of London’s Neil Ferguson, which initially projected 132,687 COVID deaths in Canada by July 30, 2020.

In fact, there were 9,019 actual deaths by that date.

The essay criticized the failure of epidemiological models to account for changes in human behaviour in response to the coronavirus.

It notes that there have been no estimates of how much lockdowns cost society in terms of GDP, in areas such as worldwide food insecurity, international trade reductions, reduced travel, increased domestic violence, employment disruptions, and increased drug, alcohol, and mental health issues.

The essay added that there are also no estimates of the effect lockdowns have had on children’s physical well-being, lost education, early development, IQ, and social abilities, but said it is generally acknowledged that children and youth suffered under lockdowns.