Adverse Consequences of Lockdown
The FT today runs the argument that there are serious adverse effects of the lockdown which should be considered when deciding when to lift it. It could be that eventually lockdown kills more people than it saves.
These include the exacerbation of poor mental health and the way that people who are victims of domestic abuse have no escape.
Not a bad argument as far as it goes, but it is open to the objection that lives and cash are incommensurable. I wouldn’t make that argument, but many would. This objection points the way to a stronger argument in the vicinity.
Asking the Right Question about Whether Lockdown Kills
Lockdown will kill more people than it saves. The choice is not “accept some economic damage in order to save lives or not.” It is “kill group X or group Y.”
We kind of get there already with the estimate by the oncologist Sikora that excess cancer mortality caused by lack of screening will be 50,000. But beyond that, the economic damage caused by the lockdown will be so immense that it is likely that the second round effects on future NHS spending will also be huge. That will again cause many more deaths.
Moreover, those deaths are more damaging. We may think we are killing Group Y in order to give Group X a few extra months. Most of Group X are over 80 and with existing health conditions. Indeed, 50% of COVID mortality takes place in a care home setting, where the median length of stay is in any case 12 months. Group Y is younger people who would be economically active for a lifetime. If they are killed by the lockdown, they will not be. Note that a 1% increase in unemployment causes a 0.79% increase in suicide.
However, against this it should be noted that men who smoke and are aged 80 with a morbidity factor such as diabetes still have remaining life expectancy of 5 years. This rather extraordinary fact suggests that some men who have made it that far are very resilient.
My second reason for scepticism about the lockdown is that we are not really doing it (in the UK). There is massive non-compliance. Many people cannot be bothered to maintain a 2m separation even when it is easy to do so. There are signs on Battersea Bridge stating that one should cross on the leftward pavement. This is too difficult for about 20% of people. 25% of people admit that they are non-compliant, which makes me believe that in fact, maybe 75% of people are actually non-compliant.
Also note that subject 31 caused 81% of cases in S Korea. This implies you need a 100.0% compliance rate to do anything useful. That also makes me question the point of lockdown. Though of course I am complying with it because we cannot be sure whether it works.
The primary argument for lockdown derived from the Imperial model. This is a questionable piece of work. It is pure mathematical modelling, not a result of data analysis. The model is not experimental observational science. It is also “5000 lines of unaudited C from 13 years ago.”
I discuss one serious problem with the Imperial model here: https://timlshort.com/2020/05/28/monte-carlo-simulation-objection-to-imperial/
Lockdown appears more reasonable based on the latest data, however. One powerful argument against lockdown was that India was clearly incapable of doing any kind of stringent and comprehensive lockdown. Indian mortality rates were mild however. That is no longer true. It may be the case that we have to do lockdown even though lockdown kills.