There’s a strong case against lockdowns. At several times in human history people have used quarantines to help slow the spread of an infectious disease. But at no time in human history have we asked entire countries to stop their activities or kept healthy people separated from each other and living in a perpetual state of fear.
The original idea behind lockdown was to “flatten the curve.” We wanted to keep hospitals and medical personnel from overwhelm. And we wanted to reduce coronavirus deaths. While this seemed like sound logic at the time, it has not worked.
The first argument in the case against lockdowns is that lockdowns have not led to better outcomes than places where there were no lockdowns.
In fact, in many cases, including Italy and America, the coronavirus outcomes have been much worse.
If lockdowns worked, Sweden, which has faced global criticism for their “lax” policy with no lockdowns, would not have seen only 5,800 deaths out of a population of 10,343,403.
The global health community is starting to realize that Sweden has been successful in its fight against coronavirus. In fact, the World Health Organization has recently appointed Johan Giesecke, former Swedish state epidemiologist and one of the voices against police-enforced widespread lockdowns, a senior advisory position as vice-chair of the World Health Organization Strategic and Technical Advisory Group on Infectious Hazards.
This article in Newsweek explains Giesecke’s position:
Writing in The Lancet in May, Giesecke said he believes that “everyone will be exposed” to the virus at some point and that “most people will become infected”—but many will have weak or mild symptoms. “There is very little we can do to prevent this spread: a lockdown might delay severe cases for a while, but once restrictions are eased, cases will reappear. I expect that when we count the number of deaths from COVID-19 in each country in one year from now, the figures will be similar, regardless of measures taken.”
Isolation polices prolong the problem
As Scott Atlas, M.D., points out in this excellent article, isolation policies actually prolong the problem. Atlas explains:
We know from decades of medical science that infection itself allows people to generate an immune response — antibodies — so that the infection is controlled throughout the population by “herd immunity.” Indeed, that is the main purpose of widespread immunization in other viral diseases — to assist with population immunity. In this virus, we know that medical care is not even necessary for the vast majority of people who are infected. It is so mild that half of infected people are asymptomatic, shown in early data from the Diamond Princess ship, and then in Iceland and Italy. That has been falsely portrayed as a problem requiring mass isolation. In fact, infected people without severe illness are the immediately available vehicle for establishing widespread immunity. By transmitting the virus to others in the low-risk group who then generate antibodies, they block the network of pathways toward the most vulnerable people, ultimately ending the threat. Extending whole-population isolation would directly prevent that widespread immunity from developing.
So widespread lockdowns of the entire population do not work.
Yet despite this clear evidence, different states in the United States and countries around the world are continuing to ignore the case against lockdowns and insist on them.
California remains in a state of coronavirus fear
What’s going on in California is a case in point. Many Californians remain in a state of overwhelming fear. Healthy people are afraid of other healthy people. Californians are canceling birthday parties, weddings, and Thanksgiving gatherings. Based on what data?
Keep in mind that coronavirus testing seems to have very high false positive rates. As the American Council on Science and Health explains: “Diagnostic tests are imperfect, and they produce false positives and false negatives. Even if kept to a minimum, minor inaccuracies create substantial problems.” Unusable tests have plagued health authorities in Iowa and many other states.
Yet California defines one new case in 10,000 as “widespread” in their Blueprint for a Safer Economy Guidelines. A “new case” is a positive test result. This may or may not be an actual COVID-19 case. With criteria as broad and unscientific as this, California lockdowns could last for years.
New Zealand reinstates isolation policies despite the case against lockdowns
On August 13, after more than a hundred days without any new local cases of COVID-19, the prime minister of New Zealand locked down the country’s largest city.
The reason for the new lockdown was that four members in the same family tested positive for coronavirus.
I have a colleague who lives in New Zealand. She’s an American married to a New Zealander. She told me that people out of the country had to wait for months to return to their families. New Zealand was praised for closing its borders. But the new cases cropping up suggest that Dr. Atlas’s assessment is correct: mass isolation (even in an island country as remote as New Zealand) is not the way to beat back a novel virus.
Lockdown policies have also failed in Israel, a country that early on adopted stringent isolation policies. They didn’t work the first time. But the Israeli government has now imposed a second lockdown despite the case against lockdowns. Why they’ve done so is not entirely clear.
If lockdowns worked, Israel would not be in another lockdown. They were one of the earliest adopters of the most draconian methods.
The strongest case against lockdowns may be that they cause harm
You don’t have to be an epidemiologist or social scientist to understand that we human beings are social creatures. We thrive off skin-to-skin contact, which you can read more about here and here. We need to be in social solidarity with other people, not social isolation. When humans are separated from their loved ones the psychological harm is often, perhaps always, devastating.
On March 18, Fadayomi jumped in his car and raced to Northside Hospital Atlanta. As soon as he pulled into the lot, he said, a nurse called him.
“I don’t want to be the person to tell you this,” the nurse said, “but you can’t come into the hospital until you receive your test results.”
Fadayomi started to cry.
For years, he had vowed to be there for his children from the very beginning – the way his father, who left his life when he was in third grade, never was. How could he not be there for the babies’ first look at this world, a world filled with so much anxiety and fear and confusion?
“I’m so sorry,” the nurse said. She started to cry, too.
Gerald and Kiley did not have coronavirus. The forced separation, it seems, was completely unnecessary.
We humans have evolved to live in groups. Being together is how we humans stay safe. Lockdowns not only devastate the economy, they also lead to excess deaths from suicide, domestic violence, and loneliness.
Suffering from loneliness increases the likelihood of death
Indeed, scientists have repeatedly found that suffering from loneliness increases the likelihood of death.
As this team of Finnish researchers explains:
Isolated and lonely people are at increased risk of death. Health policies addressing risk factors such as adverse socioeconomic conditions, unhealthy lifestyle, and lower mental wellbeing might reduce excess mortality among the isolated and the lonely.
In 2015 Dale Archer, M.D., explored how loneliness is connected to death in an article for Psychology Today. Archer writes that loneliness can kill:
…researchers say loneliness is now a major public health issue and represents a greater health risk than obesity and is as destructive to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. The study, published in the journal “Perspectives on Psychological Science”, was a meta-analysis that looked at 70 studies covering over 3 million people. The results: social isolation, loneliness and living alone can increase mortality risk by 29%, 26%, and 32% respectively, after adjusting for age, gender, socio-economic status and pre-existing health conditions.
It’s disappointing that public health authorities have instilled so much fear without giving people information about the science-based ways they can support healthy immunity, prevent coronavirus, and treat it effectively.
We support the human immune system by eating healthy, real, whole foods; getting adequate sun exposure; making love; and enjoying social togetherness.
- Cold and flu viruses
- Drug-resistant bacteria
- E. Coli
- Parasites like tapeworms and roundworms
- Pathogenic Fungi
- Protozoans (single-celled organisms that can cause diseases like malaria)
A healthy immune system neutralizes disease-causing agents. Health comes from social interactions and togetherness, not isolation and lockdowns.