While some were gratified by the change in lifestyle that the first round of lockdowns brought, it’s becoming apparent that lockdowns can have a devastating downside. More and more information is emerging showing they can destroy lives, livelihoods and economies, while robbing people of their health and wellbeing. Increasing numbers of scientists and health professionals are voicing their concerns over the continued use of lockdowns to ‘control’ an uncontrollable virus that has likely already become endemic. But their calls are falling on deaf ears as governments globally once again resort to lockdowns to counter spiralling ‘case’ rates seemingly regardless of the indirect collateral damage caused by lockdowns.
Long-term, it’s evidence – especially robust evidence – that will hold sway. That’s the reasoning behind an initiative at CollateralGlobal.org that’s being established as “a global repository for research into the collateral effects of the COVID-19 lockdown measures.” It was set up on 4 November with the help of UK businessman, Luke Johnson (no relative of the UK’s prime minister).
The entity hosting the website is a UK based non-profit and it has none other than the three, world-leading public health scientists behind the Great Barrington Declaration on its supervisory board, namely Dr Jay Bhattacharya (professor of medicine, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research), Dr Sunetra Gupta (professor of theoretical epidemiology, University of Oxford) and Dr Martin Kulldorff (professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School). They are accompanied by outspoken, evidence-based lockdown skeptic, Dr Carl Heneghan, professor of evidence based medicine, University of Oxford).
The site has initially focused on the UK, but will be expanding to include other countries in the coming weeks. Writing in The Times, Luke Johnson accused the UK government and its “expert” advisors of “suffering from a number of failings linked to cognitive biases in their approach to Covid-19 and lockdowns”.
Given that the heavily funded, pro-lockdown scientists responded to the Great Barrington Declaration with the John Snow Memorandum, should we expect to see copy-catting with the release of a website containing a repository of evidence for the benefits of lockdown? Drs Bhattacharya, Gupta, Heneghan and Gupta have been predictably smart: the John Snow lobby will struggle given the paucity of data. They’re also well behind on signatures. So if you hear anyone in government telling you lockdown decisions are being based on science, you’ll know they’re either lying or they’re ignorant.
What’s emerging is an interesting balance of evidence: The evidence for lockdown benefit continues to be wafer-thin, with the harms caused by lockdowns increasingly outweighing any perceived or measured benefits. As we showed last week, countries that have locked down hardest have among the highest covid-associated mortalities and there is no clear association with outcomes and lockdown severity or absence.
Even Dr David Nabarro from the World Health Organization has gone on record to say that governments should only ever use lockdown as a last resort.
The blindness of groupthink
UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak warned in October of an impending ‘economic emergency’ if the UK Government was to go ahead with a second lockdown. His warning went unheeded and a second lockdown was initiated without any impact assessment. It seems when the strings of the global governance movement including UN agencies, the World Economic Forum, the International Monetary Fund, and others have decided on a particular course of action, obedient governments choose to follow suit, regardless. Groupthink becomes the driver, not science or the welfare of the world’s populations.
In the US, 600 doctors sent a letter to Donald Trump branding lockdowns “a mass casualty incident” with “exponentially growing health consequences”.
What is the collateral damage of lockdown?
Following is a summary of the known evidence of lockdowns, based on established harms of lockdown measures, reflected by the evidence documented on the collateralglobal.org website. The Figure complements the ‘Big 52’ we identified in an article on ‘covid myopia’ released 2 weeks back, that includes 52 risk factors for severe covid-19 disease, many modifiable, widely ignored by governments and health authorities.
Figure. The collateral damage from lockdowns. Based on the expanding evidence repository at collateralglobal.org
Note: evidence marked with an asterisk below can be found at www.collateralglobal.org. Other evidence is from variable sources including media reports and has sometimes yet to find its way into peer reviewed journals.
Increase in addictions e.g. alcohol, opioid use. Levels of alcohol consumption in the UK has increased and many recovering addicts have experienced a relapse or reoccurrence of their addictive behaviours during lockdown*
Recovery from eating disorders has been heavily impacted with loss of support services*
The mental and physical health of elderly patients in care homes and especially those suffering with dementia has deteriorated considerably with the loss of contact with loved ones.*
Increase in deaths due to lack of medical treatment e.g. cancer, cardiovascular disease. Data to the end of April show a significant fall in hospital admissions for chemotherapy and urgent referrals for patients with suspected cancer*
Fewer surgeries* have been carried out as a result of the reduction in hospital services and admissions as medical services focus on covid-19 cases*
Calls to protect the NHS created a fear of catching the virus in hospitals resulting in individuals being scared to seek medical attention leading to serious disease going undiagnosed e.g. cancer.
Levels of child abuse have increased dramatically.* With children unable to get away from their abusers due to restrictions. The NSPCC reported* a 32% increase in calls during lockdown
With schools closed many children missed out on education resulting in a loss of basic skills such as reading and writing
The EU reported a 60% increase in emergency calls about domestic violence during lockdowns*
Higher poverty levels due to loss of income/employment*
Social isolation, particularly for the elderly and single people*
As people become increasingly unable to pay rent or mortgages homelessness has risen. It is expected to continue rising as more people are forced into unemployment.
Among the most tangible positives from lockdown are environmental benefits. Air and noise pollution reduced, water quality improved and nature had an opportunity to regenerate
However, pollution from single-use plastic increased significantly, particularly due to PPE usage and increased reliance on takeaway food and drink.
Bankruptcies in advanced economies are predicted to increase by around 20% in 2021 as government support for businesses affected by lockdown is withdrawn
High levels of unemployment due to job losses. Record numbers of British workers have lost their jobs in the three months to September causing the unemployment rate to rise to its highest rate since November 2016. In the US unemployment hit a record high of 14.7% as a result of the first lockdown. With the current government so far resisting further lockdowns the unemployment rate has now dropped to 6.9%
It’s not only scientific factions that are polarised, so are political ones – that polarisation being reflected in society.
In the US, President-elect Biden has pledged to rebuild the relationship with the WHO, go for a national mask mandate, and has mooted the possibility of nationwide lockdowns. Where’s the science, Mr Biden?
It’s no different this side of the pond. In the UK, health secretary Matt Hancock vows “to inject hope into the arms of millions this winter”, although it’s reassuring he’ll have to face a growing army of Tory rebels who’ve launched an anti-lockdown campaign group.
If there can be one generalised conclusion, it’s that politics trumps science (pun noted).