Stanford study finds no significant benefits to COVID-19 lockdowns

The study contradicts previous inquiries into the effectiveness of lockdowns


A new study from Stanford University measuring the impact of lockdowns on the spread of coronavirus found that countries which impose lockdowns do not significantly outperform countries which do not impose them.

"[We] fail to find strong evidence supporting a role for more restrictive [non-pharmaceutical intervention]s in the control of COVID in early 2020," the study concluded. "We do not question the role of all public health interventions, or of coordinated communications about the epidemic, but we fail to find an additional benefit of stay-at-home orders and business closures."

The researchers suggested that there may be small benefits to lockdown measures, but "these benefits may not match the numerous harms of these aggressive measures."

The study acknowledged that it was limited by a number of factors, most notably cross-country differences. The study compared eight countries which had imposed lockdowns to Sweden and South Korea, both of which avoided closing businesses and imposing stay-at-home orders. "[Countries] may have different rules, cultures, and relationships between the government and citizenry," and that "these differences may also exist across subnational units."

It was also acknowledged that the accuracy of coronavirus statistics may range by country due to disparities in testing.

One of the authors of the study, Jay Bhattacharya, has been an opponent of lockdowns since the spring. He co-authored the so-called Great Barrington Declaration in October of last year, an open letter advocating for more risk-based approaches to handling the coronavirus pandemic than impositions of general lockdown measures on everyone.

The declaration was controversial, with many medical experts asserting that the main motivation behind it was political, not scientific.

The study contradicts previous inquiries into the effectiveness of lockdowns, with previous studies suggesting that millions of deaths and over half a billion infections may have been prevented by early lockdown measures.

"This data suggests that without any interventions, such as lockdown and school closures, there could have been many more deaths from COVID-19. The rate of transmission has declined from high levels to ones under control in all European countries we study," said Dr. Samir Bhatt, one of the authors of a study on the effectiveness of lockdown measures in June.


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