Study: Lockdowns had no effect on death rates

By Art Moore

In a country-by-country comparison, a Danish professor has concluded the evidence shows the spring 2020 lockdowns in response to the coronavirus pandemic had no effect on death rates.

Further, wrote Professor Christian Bjørnskov of Aarhus University, the unprecedented shutdown policies “appear to be substantial long-run government failures.”

His paper, “Did Lockdown Work? An Economist’s Cross-Country Comparison,” sought to “explore the association between the severity of lockdown policies in the first half of 2020 and mortality rates.”

The professor of economics used two indices from the University of Oxford’s school of government as COVID-19 policy measures and compared weekly mortality rates from 24 European countries in the first halves of 2017-2020.

“I find no clear association between lockdown policies and mortality development,” he wrote.

His paper reviewed two other studies that reached the same conclusion.

“The lockdowns in most Western countries have thrown the world into the most severe recession since World War II and the most rapidly developing recession ever seen in mature market economies,” Bjørnskov wrote. “They have also caused an erosion of fundamental rights and the separation of powers in large part of the world as both democratic and autocratic regimes have misused their emergency powers and ignored constitutional limits to policy-making.”

He reasoned then that it’s “important to evaluate whether and to which extent the lockdowns have worked as officially intended: to suppress the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and prevent deaths associated with it.”

In his comparison of 24 countries, he found the lockdowns did not work as intended, finding no association with lower mortality.

The paper was published by The SSRN, formerly known as Social Science Research Network, which describes itself as “a repository for preprints and international journal devoted to the rapid dissemination of scholarly research in the social sciences and humanities and more.”

‘Long-run government failures’

Bjørnskov noted much has been made of Sweden’s decision not to impose a full-scale lockdown.

He pointed out that Sweden’s mortality rates are 14% higher than in the preceding three years. That is slightly more than France but considerably lower than Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom, which all implemented much stricter policies.

“The problem at hand is therefore that evidence from Sweden as well as the evidence presented here does not suggest that lockdowns have significantly affected the development of mortality in Europe,” he said.

“It has nevertheless wreaked economic havoc in most societies and may lead to a substantial number of additional deaths for other reasons,” wrote Bjørnskov.

He cited a British government report from April predicting a limited lockdown could cause 185,000 excess deaths over the next years.

“Evaluated as a whole, at a first glance, the lockdown policies of the Spring of 2020 therefore appear to be substantial long-run government failures,” the professor concluded.

Rationality has played only a small part’ in public policy

A case against the coronavirus lockdowns also has been made by former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson in two self-published booklets available on

His latest is “Unreported Truths about COVID-19 and Lockdowns: Part 2: Update and Examination of Lockdowns as a Strategy.”

Berenson said in an interview with Fox News that it’s important to get different perspectives at a time when 90% of media “is saying the same thing, with very little pushback or smart questioning.”

The lockdowns in the spring of 2020 “really came out of nowhere,” he said.

“When you look at the history of lockdowns, they were rejected over and over again as a tool when we were considering what to do about flu epidemics, including flu epidemics that would have been much worse than what the coronavirus epidemic is,” Berenson said.

“I’m talking about something up to the Spanish Flu, or possibly even worse than that. The health authorities and the scientists who considered this said, ‘No lockdowns. Lockdowns don’t work.'”

Previous data indicate lockdowns don’t work once the epidemic stage is reached, he said. but government leaders did it anyway as they struggled to understand COVID-19.

“We threw out a lot of work that we had done in a matter of days,” Berenson said. “It is completely unprecedented. Wherever you stand on lockdowns, you should understand how unprecedented this is.”

He said he would be surprised if there were additional lockdowns going forward, in part because “there is an understanding now of how destructive” they were to both society and the economy.

“In Arizona, Texas and Florida, the worst of it is behind us in terms of the number of people hospitalized,” Berenson said.

“The death counts will still continue to rise, but they accomplished that without a major lockdown. So, I think, rationally, governors who look at that and distance themselves from the media hysteria, will say, look in Houston … Phoenix, Miami, without lockdowns those hospitals continued to function.”

Berenson said “rationality has played only a small part” in public policy, so nothing would shock him.

“The point of the lockdown is supposed to be to save the hospitals from being overrun, to save us all from some sort of massive societal collapse. That didn’t happen,” he said. “So what on earth would we be doing it for going forward?”

Not surprisingly, there also is a censorship angle to Berenson’s message.

Amazon initially told Berenson his first booklet didn’t meet the company’s “guidelines.” But the digital retail giant backed down after SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and other prominent journalists spoke up for Berenson.

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