From 1.8 million years of life lost in Australia to almost a trillion dollars of financial costs, the COVID-19 lockdowns over the past three years have cost Australians far more than they have delivered. That’s according to a new research analysis by the Institute of Public Affairs.
We all probably suspected that the costs of COVID-19 lockdowns would be gigantic. However, time and time again, governments assured us that they were doing what was necessary to keep us safe.
A recent report by the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) has called this claim into question by attempting to calculate the”‘economic, social and humanitarian costs of zero-COVID”. The document is entitled Hard Lessons: Reckoning the Economic, Social, and Humanitarian Costs of Zero-COVID and can be found on the IPA’s website.
The study is not the first to do so, however. In September 2021, a critical assessment of COVID data, published in the International Journal of the Economics of Business, concluded that the lockdowns would ultimately cost more lives than they saved.
As the authors of the new IPA report highlight, people often juxtapose “lives” and “the economy” when arguing about the cost of lockdowns. However, the authors point out that this is a false contrast:
“It is important to note that this is not about ‘lives’ vs ‘the economy’. The lives impacted by covid-19 are no more or less valuable than lives harmed by the response to covid-19. This report demonstrates that far more years of life will be lost due to the restrictions than have been saved.
Thus, on a metric focused solely on the number of lives saved/lost, the strict restrictions were a failure. In addition to this, the response to Covid-19 has caused a significant reduction to the net mental wellbeing, economic prosperity, and educational levels of society.”
The research was written by Morgan Begg, the Director of the Legal Rights Program at the Institute of Public Affairs, and Daniel Wild, the Deputy Executive Director at the Institute of Public Affairs, and its findings are scathing.
Lockdowns Do Not Work
The report doesn’t mince words: “Lockdowns did not work,” it states bluntly. The aggressive measures found in Australia were “enabled” by “alarmist modelling” at the start of the pandemic based on a series of faulty assumptions.
“The logic of locking down to save lives is based on the intuitive assumption that restricting the movement of people will reduce the transmission in the community of an infectious disease.
It is simplistic and myopic in that it assumes that totalitarian controls can be exercised over human behaviour without the detrimental costs of the lockdowns outweighing the benefits.”
The research found that the years of life lost through lockdowns dramatically outweighed the number of lives saved by them:
“There is a positive correlation between employment and life expectancy. Unemployment reduces life expectancy due to a number of well-documented causes, including cardiovascular disease; increased illicit substance and alcohol abuse, and suicide.
The modelling in this report shows that the costs of joblessness and not working as a result for (sic) the first nationwide lockdowns in March and April 2020 were 31 times greater than the maximum possible benefits of all lockdowns throughout 2020 and 2021. The nationwide lockdowns imposed in March and April 2020 accounted for a total of over 1.8 million years of life lost due to joblessness alone.”
While lives saved or lost is, of course, the most important metric for measuring the effectiveness of the lockdowns, the study also examined the financial costs of the unprecedented restrictions.
It measured “net direct economic cost” and “state and federal government spending” as well as the “aggregated cost of the inflationary effects of zero-covid policies”. In total, the authors estimate a total cost of over $938 billion.
The final measured cost of the lockdowns in the study was their “significant” impact on students. The authors concluded:
“This detriment was most pronounced in Victoria, where students missed more than five terms of in-person schooling, which resulted in Year 9 students falling behind by the equivalent of 12 weeks and 17 weeks of reading and numeracy skills, respectively.”
The report’s findings are certainly not unexpected for many people. Nevertheless, they make for sober reading. And, appropriately, the researchers noted that there “are numerous socio-economic, recreational, lifestyle, and mental health harms as a consequence of lockdown measures which have not yet been fully quantified but will be a significant ongoing cost of zero-covid.”
Millions of Australians are experiencing ongoing harm, setbacks and trauma because of the extended and unnecessary lockdowns governments inflicted upon them.
The cost can never be fully calculated.
Photo by EVG Kowalievska.