Why Lockdowns Don’t Make a Difference to a Virus

September 15, 2020

Today is the six month anniversary of “fifteen days to slow the spread.” It is far too late to still believe in the myth that lockdowns can make COVID-19 go away. And if you still believe that government action is making ANY difference, you’re completely wrong. Instead of regurgitating the disinformation from the media – take some time to listen to research.

The National Bureau of Economic Research published a paper last month, UCLA economist Andrew Atkeson and two other researchers, after looking at COVID-19 trends in 23 countries and 25 U.S. states that had seen more than 1,000 deaths from the disease by late July, found little evidence that variations in policy explain the course of the epidemic in different places.

Atkeson and his co-authors conclude that the role of legal restrictions “is likely overstated,” saying their findings “raise doubt about the importance” of lockdowns in controlling the epidemic. It would not be the first time that people have exaggerated the potency of government action while ignoring everything else.

It shows that countries and regions follow a similar pattern “everywhere” regardless of whether that state or country implemented lockdowns, social distancing laws or mask mandates (all these are referred to as NPIs or nonpharmaceutical interventions).

Transmission rates are high at first, the study notes, but growth in the spread of the disease quickly declines after twenty to thirty days. After this, “the growth rate of daily deaths in all regions has hovered around zero or slightly below.” In other words, it appears lockdowns have no effect on changing the shape of the curve anymore.

Thus, a few months out from the initial surge, growth rates in all regions became more and more similar across jurisdictions.

The authors therefore conclude:

“…given the observation that disease transmission rates have remained low with relatively low dispersion across locations worldwide for the past several months as NPIs [nonpharmaceutical interventions] have been lifted, we are concerned that estimates of the effectiveness of NPIs in reducing disease transmission from the earlier period may not be relevant for forecasting the impact of the relaxation of those NPIs in the current period, due to some unobserved switch in regime.”

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