Every medical treatment plan comes with potential side effects. Every physician needs to consider whether the treatments they propose could cause more harm than good. In clinical medicine, a treatment generally only becomes widely accepted when high quality clinical trials are published in trustworthy journals to prove that its benefits outweigh its potential harms.
As the global COVID-19 pandemic worsens, talk of increased lockdowns are in the news daily. Dr. Matt Strauss, a professor at Queen’s University’s medical school, writes “the cold, hard fact is that lockdowns do not seem to achieve what one might hope” and he therefore calls for a more focused protection plan.
The benefits of lockdowns to prevent deaths from COVID-19 are far from proven. The very best paper evaluating whether lockdowns save lives was performed by researchers at the University of Toronto, Drs. Chaudry and Riazi, and published by Lancet. They took data from 50 countries reporting COVID-19 mortality and performed statistical analyses to see whether those that enacted strict lockdowns had fewer COVID-19 deaths. They did not.
A similar analysis, by a Dr. Leffler and colleagues, used data from 200 countries and was published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. It likewise found no effect of lockdowns on COVID-19 mortality.
These papers can be criticized, and perhaps better data will one day supersede them. But for now, the cold, hard fact is that lockdowns do not seem to achieve what they were intended.
For one thing, we will never have a perfect lockdown in which absolutely everyone stays home for all the time. More importantly, COVID-19 is not an equal opportunity killer. While the overall mortality is low (a recent WHO bulletin) estimated a less than 0.3 per cent mortality rate), it is up to 1,000 time more likely i to kill someone over 70 than someone under 30. Therefore, the total number of deaths in a COVID-19 pandemic will not depend so much on how many cases there are but rather in whom those cases occur.
This is why I favor a focused protection plan in which we pour resources into protecting society’s most vulnerable, rather than subsidizing less vulnerable people to make unnecessary sacrifices.
And such resources we had to pour! The federal government has gone $350 billion in debt this year to pursue misguided lockdowns. For reference, $350 billion, adjusted for inflation, is more than we spent fighting the Second World War over six years.
That $350 billion could have built two new hospitals in every city and town in Canada! If we purport to care about our elders, we must stop and imagine what $350 billion could have done to ameliorate the chronic understaffing and sometimes squalid physical conditions of our long-term care homes.
How many lives could that strategy have saved? We need to ask such questions before we shoot ourselves in the other foot with a second lockdown.
The above article appeared a couple of weeks ago in the Toronto Star by Dr. Matt Strauss and Dr. Lawrence Loh
As a tour manager, it is my job to try and keep the artists and crews on course. Just like the rest of the world, fear can be debilitating to any tour. I am inclined to stand with Van Morrison and many others that are resisting the lock down. I am fortunate to live in Nashville, where we still have a lot of freedom to mask or not and lock downs are not the norm.
The concert season may be a little slow to return to what we all consider normal again in 2021, but I think it will eventually. Until then, thank God for steaming services and the precious freedom in the US and Canada to express ourselves.