Lockdowns Don't Reduce Covid-19 Deaths

Government mandated lockdowns do not reduce Covid-19 deaths: implications for evaluating the stringent New Zealand response” by John Gibson. New Zealand Economic Papers, August 25, 2020.

This paper was written back in August but only published last month and came to our attention today.

“The New Zealand policy response to Coronavirus was the most stringent in the world during the Level 4 lockdown. Up to 10 billion dollars of output (≈3.3% of GDP) was lost in moving to Level 4 rather than staying at Level 2, according to Treasury calculations. For lockdown to be optimal requires large health benefits to offset this output loss. Forecast deaths from epidemiological models are not valid counterfactuals, due to poor identification. Instead, I use empirical data, based on variation amongst United States counties, over one-fifth of which just had social distancing rather than lockdown. Political drivers of lockdown provide identification. Lockdowns do not reduce Covid-19 deaths. This pattern is visible on each date that key lockdown decisions were made in New Zealand. The apparent ineffectiveness of lockdowns suggests that New Zealand suffered large economic costs for little benefit in terms of lives saved.”