A new United Nations report has laid bare the appalling cost of lockdowns in some of the world’s poorest countries.
The report, Direct and Indirect Effects of COVID-19 Pandemic and Response in South Asia, examines the effect of the unprecedented Government shutdown policies on healthcare, social services, education and the economy.
It estimates that the disruption in healthcare services caused by Government responses to COVID-19 in Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka (home to some 1.8 billion people) may have led to 239,000 maternal and child deaths.
This compares to around 186,000 deaths “with COVID-19”, meaning the lockdowns are estimated to have killed considerably more than the virus. Furthermore, 228,000 is the estimated lockdown death toll just of children under five, almost none of whom would have been at any risk from the virus. With the majority of Covid deaths worldwide being among the over 80s, the difference in terms of quality adjusted life years (QALYs) must be staggering.
The BBC summarises some key figures included in the report.
It says the number of children being treated for severe malnutrition fell by more than 80% in Bangladesh and Nepal, and immunisation among children dropped by 35% and 65% in India and Pakistan respectively.
The report also says that child mortality rose the highest in India in 2020 – up by 15.4% – followed by Bangladesh at 13%. Sri Lanka saw the sharpest increase in maternal deaths – 21.5% followed by Pakistan’s 21.3%.
Experts in India fear that malnutrition rates will be significantly worse across the country as the data comes in over the next few months.
A separate UN report in December estimated that an additional 207 million people could be pushed into extreme poverty over the next decade due to the long term impact of lockdowns.
David Livermore, Professor of Medical Microbiology at the University of East Anglia and a member of HART, told Lockdown Sceptics:
There is far too little appreciation yet (particularly in the liberal left circles ordinarily deeply concerned about child deaths in the developing world) of the damage wrought by lockdowns in these countries. Given that they have young-dominated demographies they were never at great risk from COVID-19. It is a tragedy that they were gulled into lockdowns, even more than it is for us.
Lockdowns over the past year have often been justified using the precautionary principle as the myth was created that they are cost free, at least in terms of lives, and that any financial cost must be worth it as the measures would save “hundreds of thousands” of lives. UN reports like this show how wrongheaded this idea of locking down “just in case” is, how deadly the idea of banning ordinary human interaction and activity for months on end.
Daniel Finkelstein argues in the Times today that “in the absence of preventive measures, it is clear that hundreds of thousands more people would have died”. Yet every study of real-world data shows no relationship between restrictions and Covid mortality. Neither is there evidence of these “hundreds of thousands” of additional deaths in places which eschewed strong restrictions, such as Sweden, South Dakota and Florida. Yet this foundational lockdown myth persists, not because of any actual evidence to back it up, but to preserve the consciences of those who supported measures which did so much harm to their countries and to vulnerable people around the world.
Isn’t it time governments took a proper look at what the data shows – the huge harms, the hundreds of thousands of child deaths, the lack of evidence of effectiveness – and renounced lockdowns forever?