A major study backed by Oxford University has suggested that strict COVID lockdowns were no more effective at reducing infections than the Swedish-style softer approach, which allowed more personal freedom and recommended rather than mandated behaviors aimed at reducing the transmission of the virus.
This conclusion challenges the tyrannical lockdown adopted by many countries, including the US, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the US shut down all commerce for years and destroyed the economy, Sweden took a different approach to the COVID-19 pandemic on the first wave of COVID-19 than most other countries and just allowed the China coronavirus to run its course. Instead of shutting down the businesses, the government relied on voluntary measures and recommendations to slow the spread of the virus. These measures included social distancing, working from home, and avoiding gatherings of more than 50 people.
Data indicates there are no material differences in fatalities between the three countries. In fact, the COVID-19 numbers are dropping significantly in Sweden. This leads the casual observer to question why the US is killing its economy.
In September 2020, the Scandinavian country had one of the lowest numbers of COVID-19 cases in Europe.
“We don’t have the resurgence of the disease that many countries have,” Anders Tegnell, the country’s chief epidemiologist and architect of its no-lockdown strategy, told broadcaster France-24 in an interview. “In the end, we will see how much difference it will make to have a strategy that’s more sustainable, that you can keep in place for a long time, instead of the strategy that means that you lock down, open up and lock down over and over again.”
“Sweden has gone from being the country with the most infections in Europe to the safest one,” Tegnell last week told the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.
The research, published in the prestigious journal Nature Human Behavior, challenges the widely held belief that stringent lockdowns are the most effective strategy to control the spread of COVID-19.
The research analyzed various factors, including infection rates, economic impact, and behavioral changes, to evaluate different approaches. Surprisingly, the study revealed that lockdown measures did not offer a substantial advantage over Sweden’s strategy.
The study involved the analysis of data from around 416,000 individuals in the New York–Newark–Jersey City, NY–NJ–PA metro area. It examined various scenarios of pandemic policies, including strict lockdowns and voluntary behavior adaptations like in Sweden.
Here’s a simplified explanation of the findings:
Behavior Change vs. NPIs (non-pharmaceutical interventions like lockdowns and mask mandates): The study found that both strict lockdowns and significant voluntary changes in behavior due to fear of infection can lead to similar outcomes: “fewer” COVID-19 deaths but higher unemployment. For instance, maintaining baseline fear of infection but closing all non-essential activities increases unemployment by 64% while reducing deaths by 35%. An increase in fear of infection also leads to similar trends. This pattern is especially pronounced among low-income workers, who tend to work in customer-facing industries most affected by lockdowns and voluntary service avoidance.
Industry-Specific Closures: The efficacy of closing different economic sectors was analyzed. Closing all non-essential activities, including large segments like manufacturing and construction, marginally decreased deaths compared to only closing customer-facing industries like entertainment and food services. However, it caused a significant increase in unemployment. In contrast, closing just customer-facing industries slightly increased the death rate (by 4%) but greatly mitigated unemployment (by 36%).
Timing of Interventions: The study explored the effects of starting epidemic mitigation measures earlier or later than actually implemented. Delaying measures marginally reduces unemployment by 2% but causes a 50% rise in deaths. Conversely, an early start of mitigation measures prevents an epidemic wave and helps to avoid increases in unemployment due to fear of infection.
According to the conclusion from the study, “Addressing the health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic required important societal and economic disruptions, sparking intense debates. On the one hand, stringent restrictions and government-enforced measures were critical to suppress the virus spread. On the other hand, some contend that individual behavioural adaptations could have served as a more effective tool in managing the epidemic’s trajectory. They suggest that allowing individuals to spontaneously lower their exposure risk according to the epidemic trajectory would lead to the most favourable balance of health and economic outcomes.”