There Is No Evidence Lockdowns Saved Lives. It Is Indisputable They Caused Great Harm

There Is No Evidence Lockdowns Saved Lives. It Is Indisputable They Caused Great Harm

Also see this important update: Bad Arguments For Lockdowns & The Burden Of Proof. Also: US States Analysis.

The US has a little more than 4% of the world population. Yet, throughout the end of April and through mid-May, the US claimed to have about a third of the reported coronavirus cases and a quarter to a third of reported death worldwide. What accounts for these amazing numbers?

By any measure, the US has a much better healthcare system than the Philippines (PI). The country has about a third of the US population, at 106.7 million. Just to pick a date, on May 12, 2020 the PI reported 11,086 cases and 726 deaths, according to Worldometer. This represents 213 cases per million residents, and 7 per million deaths. The US reported 4,187 cases per million, and 247 deaths per million, 20 and 30 times higher than the PI. The PI also had variable lockdowns, as did the US, with Manila reportedly facing the strictest measures, similar to some areas in the US.

One obvious difference in numbers is the level of testing. The US surely carried out testing more assiduously than did the PI. The same site claimed the US carried out 29 thousand tests per million, with only 1,600 per million in the PI. But with lower deaths, a country needs fewer tests.

Without question, the media, including non-American media, focused on the US. And perhaps the US was quicker to ascribe deaths to coronavirus. Who knows what the PI policy was for ascribing deaths. The weather in the PI, too, was much better— that is, hotter and sunnier—than in the areas of the US with the largest deaths, New York, Chicago, and Detroit metropolitan areas, which all had lousy weather. A late spring, with cool temperatures and a lot of rain.

Taiwan is a country of 24 million people and had, on the same date, 440 cases and 7 deaths, or 0.3 per million. With no lockdowns and relatively good weather. We heard much about Sweden, which only took modest measures. Sweden has less than half the population of Taiwan. Sweden had 26,670 reported cases, and 3,256 reported deaths, or 2,641 and 322 per million, respectively. It had worse weather.

Belgium has about as many people as Sweden, 11.5 million, though more spread out. They had 53,449 reported cases and 8,707 reported deaths, or 4,612 and 751 per million respectively, the worst of all countries. Three times worse than the US. The Belgian and US lockdown were similar, with the Belgian being slightly stricter, and easier to monitor and control given the country’s size.

There were 12 countries (with at least a million people) that had, on May 12, reported death rates greater than 100 per million. These were, from worst to best, Belgium, Spain, Italy, UK, France, Sweden, Netherlands, Ireland, USA, Switzerland, Canada, Portugal. Each country besides Sweden (which had some impositions) had lockdowns, in varying severity.

There were 31 countries (of at least one million) with reported death rates from 11 to 99 per million. These included, from worst to best, Denmark (92), Germany (91), Iran (80), Norway (41), Israel (30), Mexico (28), Russia (14), and Greece (14). Lockdowns varied widely, as we’ll see.

There were 51 countries (of at least one million) with reported death rates from 1 to 10 per million. These included Japan (with modest measures), South Korea (with more stringent measures), both at 5 per million, Singapore, Malaysia, Afghanistan, Georgia, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Paraguay, India, China, and a host of African countries.

Finally, there were 30 countries (also at least one million) with reported deaths under 1 per million. These included Thailand, Taiwan, Jordan, Hong Kong, Botswana, Syria, Myanmar, Ethiopia, and so on.

Let’s look at in pictures. I first went through every country and classified whether that country had a government-imposed lockdown of at least half its population, for any time in 2020. The sources were saved, so you can check for yourself. I welcome correction and amplifications! Download the data here. Or ignore it altogether. The spread in death rates is more then sufficient proof against lockdowns, as we’ll see.

This is a histogram of the deaths per million population for those countries with at least a population of one million, broken down by lockdowns and no lockdowns. Iceland, population about a third of a million, did not have a lockdown, thus does not appear. They had a death rate of 29 per million.

The scale is by log base 10, a necessity because of the enormous variability in death rates. Countries which did not have lockdowns are in green. If anything, these are are clustered at the lower end of death rates, but the evidence is far from conclusive.

Another way to look at it, because of the potential for population density to play a role, is a plot of the death rate per million by the population, for countries with at least one million.

The two top population points are, of course, China and India. The highest death rates were discussed above. Again, death rates were more than highly variable: they were all over the place! Vietnam, which reported 0 deaths, does not appear.

Lockdowns ranged from severe, as in China’s Wuhan, to practically non-existent or highly localized, as in Botswana, where major cities saw greater control. If lockdowns worked as advertised, then we would not expect to see such enormous variability in the reported death rates. Belgium, again, had 751 per million, and Ethiopia, population 109.2 million, had the lowest reported non-zero death rate of 0.04 per million. This is a difference of 19 thousand times!

Ethiopia did declare a state of emergency, but had no lockdown. They also had from the US a “$37m package which encompassed case management, infection prevention and control, laboratory strengthening, public health screening, and communications and media campaigns, among others.”

Vietnam, population 95.5 million, which had a lockdown (they reported 18,000 businesses were forced to close), reported 0 deaths.

Sweden did better than the UK, and there couldn’t have been a greater difference in strategies. In the US, South Dakota, which had no lockdown, did 7 times better than Chicago (or all Illinois), which did.

Brazil did not have a country-wide lockdown, but a handful of cities threatened, and some carried out local measures. Same kind of thing in the US, with of course harsh mandatory measures in more enlightened cities, to nothing in all in some flyover cities. Japan did not have a lockdown and did fine, relatively speaking. It’s never mentioned in the press, though. Wonder why? Georgia (the country) appeared only to lockdown Tblisi.

Some countries locked down only a few major cities or ports, others cut off foreign travel, and either left their citizens alone or only issued warnings. Some lockdowns were esoecially harsh, with food shortages happening fast, like in Paraguay. Lithuania required people to wear coronavirus bracelets to indicate their health status. Foreign workers in Qatar concentrated on their lockdowns in camps. Albania scanned the grounds using drones to find lockdown scofflaws. Even nomads in Western Sahara were ordered to stay in their tents!

There is a sort of trend of lower death rates in hotter countries, or in areas of larger countries with better weather, like the US. Population density also played a part. It easier to spread any bug in tightly packed quarters, than when people are spread far apart. People mattered, of course. Australia and New Zealand, both locked down, and both had 4 per million death rates, but then it was summer in both places at the start of the pandemic, and the people are largely similar.

Obviously, many, many other things varied between countries. Age and healthy of citizens. Old and decrepit in Europe? Younger and more robust in Africa? Compliance of people was of every possible status. In some countries, there was not as much oversight on lockdowns, and even in those without lockdowns some measures were taken, as in Taiwan. In Guinea police fired on lockdown protesters. In Somalia police fired and hit their targets, killing lockdown protesters. In Michigan no shots were fired, but the politicians began sweating.

Reporting also varied widely, and wildly. The West went with hour-by-hour breathless updates for every number. The press trumpeted each new increase, besides themselves with glee for an opportunity to feel important. We hardly heard from, or about, African countries.

And then the medical systems are also vastly different among all these countries. Some numbers seemed more reliable than others. Tajikistan only a few deaths (2 per million), which some said was a lie. Who knows? Everybody is sure China lied. Did Japan? Did Belarus? Over-counting and excessive nervousness caused uncertainty in the numbers in the West. Incapacity, or lack of interest or resources, or even government intervention, as in China, muddied the numbers elsewhere.

In the end, it does not come down to country- or even city-level statistics. It comes down to people. Each individual catches the bug or not, lives or dies. Not because of their country, but because of themselves, their health, their circumstances. Any given individual might have benefited from self-quarantine and loss of job. Just as any given individual might have come to a bad end from a lockdown. The only possible way to know is to measure each case. Which can never happen.

What should we conclude? Strike that. What can we conclude. Only one thing: we cannot conclude that lockdowns worked.

The only evidence for lockdowns is the desire that lockdowns worked. That, and the embarrassment (and worse) in admitting to error. What politician anywhere will cop to ruining their economy and the lives of millions of their citizens? Who can say “Ah, it was only a few trillion”? This will not happen. It just won’t. All politicians will and much go on repeating that their lockdowns “saved lives”.

They have to. It’s suicide not to. They are all talking out their nether regions. What’s the answer, the realpolitik? Let those leaders say “My plan worked” get away with it. And dispose of those who revealed themselves a petty martinets, dictators in training, and assholes. You can read into “dispose” whatever you like. Whatever happens to politicians should happen harder and longer to journalists. In any case, a global purge of braggarts will not happen.

This virus, as viruses will, found its way to all corners of the world, and it affected different areas differently. End of story.

There is a distinct tendency, at least in the Western media, to ascribe merit and blame for every event to people. What egos we all have!

In the US it went like this. The virus was caused or exacerbated by the political party I disfavor. If persons in the party I favored were listened to, this would not have been as big a crisis. The virus spread so rapidly because of the actions of the party I disfavor. The party I favor helped stem the tide and saved lives. The crisis would have ended sooner, and more lives would have been saved, if the people in the party I hate were ignored. Science saved us!

Nature gets no credit. Not for the creation of the virus, not for its highly variable spread, not for its highly variable infection rate, and certainly not for its hugely variable deaths caused. All those things were believed to be the responsibility of people. Nature has no real power, we think. It can be controlled to any degree of precision desired, if only we can muster sufficient political will and suppress our enemies.

We can credit, as we’ve already seen, the lockdowns for causing any number of difficulties, such as massive job loss, grief, disharmony, terror, and even death. It cause hubris to rise to the bursting point.

But the pandemic numbers suggest that this was yet another in an endless string of viruses that came, did its damage, and is fading into the background. It was not nearly as deadly as others, not even in the last 100 years, and it was worse than some.

Chances are we can do little to prevent pandemics like this. It’s the expectation that we can that inspired the panic. If we don’t remove that expectation, we’re going to have to go through this again.

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  1. brian

    Speaking from the UK, the lockdown was succesful because it allowed more time to catch up on the preparations that should already have been in place, and more time to bury the bodies.

  2. Michael Dowd

    Outstanding job of advocating common sense. Maybe next time the country will use some of it.

    I sent your analysis out to friends and family. But a dose of reality is not always welcome. Too bad.

  3. Ron Sinclair

    This – in my opinion – was one of your best pieces. A dispassionate look at the numbers from around the world – the evidence of how the crisis was handled. Great job and thanks.

  4. Richard T

    I have a view based on my 20 + years of business.
    When I look at the direction of travel it is clearly East to West and the spread is almost entirely following the air equivalent of highways with hots spots around the Intercontinental airport hubs.
    My traditional industry is fashion, particularly footwear.
    Lots of traffic in/out of China in the Autumn by development teams to work in the design workshops/factories of China (even when production may be elsewhere in S/E Asia, development is usually in China)
    So if it was in China early Autumn, it would almost certainly be in Europe by Xmas. I would have done 3 trips from UK, around 10 days each during October/November. I don’t any more.
    Jan/Feb, huge International trade fairs, North Italy is a key venue – checkout Riva Schuh and MICAM.
    Many coming in from China, exhibiting, both Chinese staff and foreign nationals.
    Many clients from all over Europe and North America.
    Together on stand, moving from stand to stand. Taking lunch together. Hitting the bars and restaurants at night together.
    I can see these trade fairs being real incubators if only 10 came in carrying COVID, maybe a few thousand could have left carrying it after only 4-5 days.
    Post shows, many will stay around Italy for holiday, supplier visits, fashion trend checks in stores and they may also tour Europe’s fashion capitals like Milan, London, Paris, Madrid and here you also get New York drawn in.
    Interestingly Germany is spared a little in terms of traffic. Frankfurt has lots of transfer traffic like the other cities, but not many stop off. It isn’t a tourist centre. It isn’t a fashion leader.
    I am sceptical of lockdown here in the UK. I understand why it was done. I accept it was done with the best of intentions, but think it should have been more focused on the vulnerable groups.
    I think we had very little we could do other than soak it up, and I think the intercontinental airport hubs are along with some other elements, as the key to why some are hit more than others. A density of infection could well have been reached in these places.

  5. Pk

    I agree that it all comes down to individual people. Let’s assume as of today, no one died of the virus in the USA. We would be in a situation where politicians (unlikely to have died, and with no chance to have lost their jobs, and likely to have gained from their actions) forced millions of people (also unlikely to have died) to lose their livelihoods, lose their savings, live in misery and debt servitude, and possibly die an early death. That is not success.

    What’s more, we have set the precedent that the majority can impoverish us all with no other basis than stoking fear with wild unfounded predictions.

  6. Sheri

    Evidence???? Who needs stinking evidence????

    So true with the political party crap. I have been having a discussion with someone who insisted that BLUE party people are to blame. Even to the point of misusing statistics to try and prove it. After a while, he has come to see there may be other possibilities (I hope) and that, as you say, individuals are who should be looked at. Cuomo made a mess, Gretchen the Witch did, yet other blue states did not behave this way. Some red states behaved just as badly. Blame Cuomo and Gretchen. Remove them from office. Then look at other factors as well as blue parties. As I keep saying, the virus does not know your political affiliation. It’s a virus.

    This was NEVER about a virus. It was about panic, world domination, etc. Sadly, that completely destroys ALL science associated with it, ALL statistics except maybe the real scientists hiding in their basements and doing research. Not only did people die, science went with them. We will not know how to respond in the future because, frankly, we blew up any knowledge we could have gained with partisan politics. Not only did people die now, they will die later because of the abject hatred of the demons in the media and partisan politics. I expect the future to look like this—politics killing ALL science of any kind. (Say, Greta’s on the CNN Covid 19 expert panel. WE’RE THERE ALREADY.)

  7. Todd

    Very nice. Thanks. Small typo here: The spread in death rates is more then sufficient proof against lockdowns, as we’ll see.

  8. Wilton D. Alston

    This is one of your best Briggs. I will likely be citing you for a piece I have in the hopper for this week or next. Once again, narcissistic megalomaniacs like Gretchen and Emperor Cuomo have caused more pain than they fixed. (Not need to even mention Emperor Cuomo sending positive Covid-19 patients to rest homes, and adding to the negative mix therein.) Kudos for your work!

  9. bruce charlton

    What Sheri said.

    There never was any evidence that social distancing, lockdown, quarantine was the correct strategy; no evidence because no experience (just ‘models’ – and the models came to various and opposing conclusions).

    I would add that the ultimate motivation was clearly demonic – we are living-out the greatest blow that the pricipalities and powers have *ever* landed upon Christianity. But the Christian leadership has been almost wholly complicit in the evil.

    William can be proud that his church contains what may be the only group of senior Christians to speak clearly, with honesty and conviction – and with the correct (spiritual) priorities.

  10. Elizabeth Holby

    I think you may have misunderstood the purpose of the stay at home orders. It is to keep the total number of patients needing hospitalization spread out– “flatten the curve” so that the healthcare system not overwhelmed. We don’t have enough PPE as it is, and my hospital system is struggling to stay two weeks ahead of running out. Also, health care workers are one of the highest risk demographics, and if the system overwhelmed, more of them get sick and can’t work to take care of the rest of the sick people.
    We will all either get the virus, or get the vaccine. I would prefer the vaccine.

  11. Joy

    Call it what you like, breaking transmission of viral spread by limiting movement of humans works.

    Yawn, as said before the idea is to prolong and delay, as well as save lives, which it has. That some claim not to like the evidence is another matter.

    Brian is right.
    When Chris Whitty was asked directly at committee prior to a single fatal case in this country,
    “Will we have enough space in the mortuaries?”
    The questioner seemed to want a soothing answer, he said,
    “It depends on how many people die.”

    I knew then that the numbers were expected to be very high.
    On preparedness:
    UK was prepared for pandemic flu. Completely different ball game.
    PPE is different, transmission is harder and isolation is easy.
    “lockdowns” would have happened in single buildings and institutions if that.
    Schools were never planned to close. That will show how much the decision making has been in the moment and not dogmatic or ideological.

    We have the A-team in charge. Three years of fighting nonsense litigious greasy slippery procrastinators.
    Hope Trump finds a way round the false informers and tomato throwers from both sides.

  12. Amateur Brain Surgeon

    ABS keeps not waiting for a news reader to ask some CDC (Center for Deflection of Criticism) official why they did not have the US prepared for this pandemic as it is part or their job to do so…

    Many know that Tiny Tony Fauci (PBUH) was predicting another pandemic years ago but nobody asks the lil’ tyranny why he did so little to prepare the country for what he knew was coming.

    His defense against the pandemic was about as effective as the Defense Department anticipating, identifying the 911 terrorists and responding to them

  13. SS

    Most medical health people must be on the liberal side. I live in AZ and work with tourists, a lot of tourists and close interaction. ( many tourists from China) Back in late December I was sick, others who I worked with were sick. Symptoms fit the ‘virus’ list of symptoms, but of course I didn’t even know about the virus much until Feb. For a couple months I’ve asked a Doctor and other medical personnel if it could have been the ‘virus’ I had, everyone keeps saying no, no way, like I’m a little fool who of course can’t know what the professionals know. I couldn’t get anyone interested, but I just knew it had to have been Covid. I think liberals don’t want the results of antibody tests. Last week I paid my own money to get tested. Found out YES, was positive. I think that the Covid that I and many others had back in December, came from the West coast. Cripes, we have many, many tourists from California! (They go to Las Vegas, then into AZ) Bus loads, every day. But no no no! Can’t check into this! It might show that my town and other towns near by, have positively already had it and had been doing just fine, but not now. The shutdown is hurting people, no tourists for towns that depend on tourists. (Older people, and not healthy people need to protect themselves. I know 2 people in a town near the reservations that died, federal money needs to go to helping those people, not all this other waste of $$ to everyone)
    I’ve wondered what
    are liberals really after. (get rid of Trump seems to be one BIG thing, I’m a democrat, but the blatant unfair things said against Trump, makes me say – 2020 Trump!)

  14. Hun

    “we finally have some data available in Canada on excess deaths”

    This looks like noise. Except for Quebec, which has been consistently below norm since the beginning of the year.

  15. Great job Matt – but the real trick is to get it right in the first weeks, with much less data. I use a Ouija Board – it never fails.
    Best, Allan

    Congrats Willis – you and I called it correctly in mid-March and the high-priced help got it dead wrong.

    A dispassionate review of the evidence will conclude that the Covid-19 full-lockdown was a costly, destructive debacle.

    At the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown I wrote that it was a mistake. The Covid-19 illness was not significantly worse than a bad seasonal flu, but the authorities hugely over-reacted:
    “Like swatting a fly on a glass table – with a sledgehammer!”

    I think Trump was initially correct but was persuaded to change by his advisers. He wisely left the lockdown decision to the Governors, a few of whom actually got it right, but many more chose full-lockdown. Democrats in the USA love to abuse their powers – many are covert Marxists – that’s how they roll. Now the Dems are extending the lockdown to try to harm the economy – and Trump’s chances of re-election.

    Speaking of Marxists, our “Little Dictator” Justin Trudeau illegally tried to seize unlimited spending power using Covid-19 as his excuse, but was stopped by the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition had earlier upbraided Trudeau, telling him that “George Orwell’s ‘1984’ was supposed to be a cautionary tale about the evils of big government, not an instruction manual for this Prime Minister.” Trudeau and his minions are destroying Canada.

    Regards, Allan
    [De-Linked per Anthony’s request.]

    I recently sent the following note to the media and politicians in Canada and the USA:


    As it becomes increasingly clear that the Covid-19 “pandemic” was similar in total fatalities to a bad winter flu season like 2017-2018 and less dangerous than the Hong Kong flu of 1968-69, rational voices have suggested that the full lock-down of the economy made “the cure worse than the disease”. While this was a tough call based on limited data, that was the conclusion I published early in the lockdown on 21March 2020 (below), and I was correct.
    [excerpt- posted 21Mar2020]

    Isolate people over sixty-five and those with poor immune systems and return to business-as-usual for people under sixty-five.
    This will allow “herd immunity” to develop much sooner and older people will thus be more protected AND THE ECONOMY WON’T CRASH.
    [excerpt- posted 22Mar2020]

    This full-lockdown scenario is especially hurting service sector businesses and their minimum-wage employees – young people are telling me they are “financially under the bus”. The young are being destroyed to protect us over-65’s. A far better solution is to get them back to work and let us oldies keep our distance, and get “herd immunity” established ASAP – in months not years. Then we will all be safe again.

    It is notable that Sweden sensibly rejected the full Covid-19 lock-down, and that strategy has been far more successful in total than the “full-gulag” adopted by Canada and many other countries and states.

    I wrote recently:

    The global data for Covid-19 suggests that deaths/infections will total ~0.5% of the total population – not that different from other seasonal flu’s – but dangerous for the high-risk group – those over-65 or with serious existing health problems.

    Here in Alberta, the Covid-19 lock-down has resulted in a mismanaged debacle. Most of our deaths are in nursing homes – our policy seems to be “Lockdown the low-risk majority but fail to adequately protect the most vulnerable.” This was also true elsewhere in Canada (Montreal) and the USA (New York City) and in England (London).

    “Elective” surgeries in Alberta were cancelled about mid-March, in order to make space available for the “tsunami” of Covid-19 cases that never happened. Operating rooms were empty and medical facilities and medical teams are severely underutilized. The huge backlog of surgeries will only be cleared with extraordinary effort by medical teams, and the cooperation of patients who die awaiting surgery – patients who were impatient… Alberta started to re-open on 1May2020, exactly to the day as I predicted one week before. Elective surgeries re-started on 4May2020.

    Two doctors from Bakersfield California, Dr Dan Erickson and Dr Massihi doctors reached similar conclusions, and were censored by YouTube for expressing their honest views. Here is the Bakersfield doctors’ ~1.1 hour video that was repeatedly banned by YouTube, preserved elsewhere:

    The Bakersfield doctors were telling the truth – they were saying that Covid-19 was not more severe than other major seasonal flu’s and less severe than some.

    In Europe, Total Deaths from All Causes peaked in week 14, the week of 30Mar2020-5Apr2020, suggesting that the lockdown was too late to be effective. The exception was England, which has the worst Covid-19 death rate in Europe. Here is why:

    Dr. Malcolm Kendrick, a Scottish physician, wrote:

    “Unfortunately, it seems that COVID-19 has infected everyone involved in healthcare management and turned their brains into useless mush.
    In my view, if we had any sense, we would lockdown/protect the elderly, and let everyone else get on with their lives.
    However, the hospitals themselves have another policy. Which is to discharge the elderly unwell patients with COVID directly back into the community, and care homes. Where they can spread the virus widely amongst the most vulnerable.
    This, believe it or not, is NHS policy. Still.”


    Many New Yorkers are ushering in a grim Mother’s Day this year amid accusations that Governor Andrew “Cuomo killed my mom” thanks to his deadly policy that forced nursing homes to admit coronavirus patients.

    The bone-headed move resulted in the deaths of thousands of senior citizens living in nursing homes.

    Cuomo mandated that nursing homes must accept coronavirus patients even though older people are the most at-risk to die from COVID-19. Making matters worse was the fact that nursing homes did not have personal protective equipment or COVID testing capability.

    Shockingly, the mainstream media not only gave Cuomo a pass on the scandal, but lionized him as a hero.

    IN CONCLUSION, the full-lockdown was a huge error – we should have followed the Swedish model and taken precautions but not shut down the economy, which harmed so many young people. We have over-protected the huge low-risk majority from a virus that typically does not harm them, and severely under-protected the high-risk elderly and infirm.

    This is not 2020 hindsight. I reached my conclusion in mid-March 2020 and published it on 21-22Mar2020, based on data from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, South Korea, and total mortality in Europe. Iceland data was examined later.

    Stanford scientist John Ioannidis finds himself under attack for questioning the prevailing wisdom about lockdowns.
    By Allysia Finley, Wall Street Journal
    Updated April 24, 2020 5:14 pm ET

    Stanford scientist John Ioannidis finds himself under attack for questioning the prevailing wisdom about lockdowns.

    Almost 200,000 surgeries and other procedures were shelved indefinitely, as hospitals braced for a deluge that never quite materialized
    National Post, 9May2020, Tom Blackwell


  16. Zach Bush

    Have you thought to compare these countries and cities based on nursing home inhabitants?

  17. I love that Dr. Briggs wrote out this whole long, well-sourced, well-reasoned post and we’re still getting responses that amount to “No, duh, the lockdowns did work, sorry.”

    Guess that puts the kibosh on that!

  18. Dave

    It’s certainly a tough thing to tease out empirically at this level. Timing matters too. Italy, for instance, didn’t lock down until their health care system was under stress. New York waited until the cat was out of the bag before locking down. Taiwan didn’t have to lock down because they started preventative actions on Dec 31. Many other Asian countries had effective plans in place (and obedient citizens who allow the government to invade their privacy and lock them up away from their families while they recover), due to their recent experiences with SARS.

    In other words, lock downs in many countries occurred after the virus was already spreading quickly and widely. Fast spread influenced those governments to impose lock downs in many of these cases. As I noted yesterday, even during lock downs in the US, many people still worked, and this helped the spread, like in the meat packing plants. It requires knowledge of how viruses work to understand how distancing contributes to slower spread than no distancing. The fewer people who cross paths with the infected, the fewer new infections.

    I’m also not sure that country level density makes much sense. Outbreaks are more local than that, like at the city level. NYC got it bad, likely because it was dense and cold. But the US is a mix of dense cities and rural countryside (and suburbs, etc). Not sure the average is meaningful.

    An argument against lock downs is that people would voluntarily take precautions on their own anyway, especially those who can reasonably identify themselves as higher risks. In other words, a good portion of observed distancing would have occurred anyway.

    It seems to me at this point, the focus should be on protecting those in nursing homes and hospitals (patients and workers), and others can make their own decisions about what risks they are willing to take. Requiring masks in indoor spaces outside of the home may also make sense, since asymptomatic people can unknowingly spread the virus.

  19. Sheri

    So, we have another “scare the daylights out of the population” moment. Wait, though, didn’t we have that black light or some variation thereof terrifying us that our bathrooms have ecoli germs everywhere? If we checked for influenza, I bet we get the same result. The mere presence of the virus does not mean transmission is likely or we’d all have ecoli 24/7. I have searched for any Covid case that is definitively tied to a cardboard box from Amazon, a public restroom door handle, etc. Can’t find a one. People, the world is GERMY and we are way too good at detecting tiny amounts of germs. I’m not saying we should give up hand-washing (we need more of that) or watching were we put our hands. But reality says the world is germy. This is like zero tolerance for radioation: a ridiculous idea designed to terrify people. But this zero tolerance scam works and results in billions lost in lawsuits based on no science.

  20. Fredo

    Monkey see monkey do lock down is all you can really say about it; same
    with the drones donated to US police departments sending data back to
    the Middle Kingdom. Yet more American exceptionalism governors and
    mayors are thrilled to get them. Just like a gulag chasing people down in
    the streets haranguing them. If it just saves one life it’s worth it!… we
    hear such plaintive cries though national security is compromised. There
    will be even more drones next time now that they understand this kabuki
    theater, and there will be a next time and a time after that if necessary, this
    has succeeded beyond Vader’s wildest expectations.

    Meanwhile on approach to the bottom of the the black hole…
    ?????????? ??????

  21. Uncle Mike

    The great harm done by destroying the economy is yet to be fully realized. Deaths from induced panic and economic collapse are rising exponentially. That peak won’t be reached for years. I’d like to see a model predicting economic morbidity and some estimate of when that curve will be flattened.

  22. Peter

    What of New Zealand? We and have very low deaths and a lock down. Is it worth adding border control and visitor numbers into your thinking?

    We closed our borders relatively quickly and are also a long way from everyone, and more an end point for travel than a thorough fare.

  23. New Zealand is an island nation that locked itself off from the outside world very quickly. Seems sufficient to explain things

  24. I think the main reasons the lockup did not work is because this was really a pandemic in two forms. In the bulk of the healthy populaton who spend their time socialising and so are affected by lockup, the virus was almost totally benign. So whilst it may have reduced infections it had almost zero impact on total deaths.

    In contrast, amongst the elderly with co-morbidities, they weren’t going out to clubs, dancing etc., instead they were most likely at home or in care reliant on the help of others. So when lockup came, whereas socialising was optional to the young and fit, the socialising of the vulnerable old was with carers who they couldn’t isolate from. So, the lockup had almost no benefit for those who were most likely to die (I heard up to 10,000x more likely to die).

    But worse!! Because the young could largely hide from the virus, instead of a quick “wild-fire” epidemic, we got a much longer “burn”. The result was that the old and vulnerable who couldn’t isolate, who were less internet savy (so didn’t get home deliveries) were at risk for a much longer period. So far from protecting the old, what the lockup ended up doing was focusssing the epidemic in those who were most at risk.

  25. John

    Making an analysis based on the same date is another fatal error in evaluating harm done. The virus does not and is not spreading equally across the world on a daily basis. The only accurate analysis can be done several weeks after there has been 2 or 3 weeks of relatively low numbers of new cases reported world wide. The analysis is like predicting the scores of baseball games at 8:00 pm. Games on the east coast may be in the 8th or 9th inning but on the west coast they may be in the 1st or 2nd. An evaluation when all are in the 8th inning will be much more accurate.

  26. randomengineer

    Hi Mr Briggs, long time reader first time commenter… or something like that.

    The notion of lockdowns working is also wrongheaded in the light of data showing the virus was present, spreading, and killing in the USA as early as late December to early January (via *forensics.) The much maligned Santa Clara antibody study also says this and everyone seems to miss that aspect, perhaps willingly. The absolute multiplier that seems to be in so much meaningless dispute says that there are plenty of people with antibodies. The multiplier isn’t relevant. What is relevant: where did they get antibodies from? One has to assume an R0 factor that’s off the charts to explain this if one also accepts the standard “first case” dating. And the higher the multiplier, the higher the R0. Yet the established R0 from other studies seems to suggest a much lower number. These cannot both be correct. The logical conclusion is that the studied/estimated R0 is correct and that the infections were present in large numbers long before lockdowns. This then says that the lockdowns were too little too late and frankly wouldn’t have mattered regardless of the political party in charge.

    *Note that the same forensics data seems to show that Sweden and France were also seeing deaths in late December and early January timeframe. Either that or we blame that Trump guy anyhow; apparently he’s able to screw up everything everywhere on the planet and do so via temporal manipulation. Sigh.

  27. Joy

    Benign! That’s funny.
    It’s not benign by measures that count with respect to public health.
    It might be considered benign by a given individual in a given example.
    Based on statistical model that tells you you’re going to be okay. It’s the same argument in reverse.

    Aside from the obvious, it is also not benign by its pathological effect. Two separate ways in which insidious illness may occur. Only one of which is currently understood, after the fact.
    Then there are the numbers, which are still not certified until the pandemic is over.
    Ebola is currently at 70% but started at “certain death” 100%.
    This disease will be managed sooner than most are predicting by my own estimation, since we’re all into this reading the future business.
    Stop panicking all you who think everybody else is panicking!
    It’s going to be okay.

  28. BW

    You need to collect the data on seniors homes.. size.. deaths.
    The majority of deaths occurred in these facilities.
    Small facilities, less deaths, large facilities harder to control.

    Tie those in and you will have a clear picture.

  29. Chad Jessup


  30. 8 Billion people on the planet.
    On the cusp of a Robotics and AI revolution.
    Do not need most of these useless eaters anymore.
    Just Elites and Intelligent Core.
    New World Order.

  31. Demetri

    I’m afraid this analysis does not take into account the most important factor of all in appraising the efficacy of lockdowns, which is their timing. Nor is their any adjustment for the varying severity of measures and of people’s adherence to them, though these are less important and harder to source accurate data on. Of note, the gap between voluntary social distancing in Sweden and government-imposed measures in Britain is not that great: clubs are allowed to open, but most are not; restaurants are doing minimal trading; mass gatherings have been banned.

    It has been most concerning to see the death rate in the UK soaring above that of comparable European nations, and persisting at a higher level for a longer time. The example of Sweden is of course an interesting one, and I am open-minded to other explanations, but it still seems far more likely than not that the delay in imposing lockdown measures accounts in large part for the high death rate in Britain.

  32. Excerpted from above for Demetri:

    Dr. Malcolm Kendrick, a Scottish physician, wrote:

    “Unfortunately, it seems that COVID-19 has infected everyone involved in healthcare management and turned their brains into useless mush.
    In my view, if we had any sense, we would lockdown/protect the elderly, and let everyone else get on with their lives.
    However, the hospitals themselves have another policy. Which is to discharge the elderly unwell patients with COVID directly back into the community, and care homes. Where they can spread the virus widely amongst the most vulnerable.
    This, believe it or not, is NHS policy. Still.”

  33. Excerpted from above for BW:


    Many New Yorkers are ushering in a grim Mother’s Day this year amid accusations that Governor Andrew “Cuomo killed my mom” thanks to his deadly policy that forced nursing homes to admit coronavirus patients.

    The bone-headed move resulted in the deaths of thousands of senior citizens living in nursing homes.

    Cuomo mandated that nursing homes must accept coronavirus patients even though older people are the most at-risk to die from COVID-19. Making matters worse was the fact that nursing homes did not have personal protective equipment or COVID testing capability.

    Shockingly, the mainstream media not only gave Cuomo a pass on the scandal, but lionized him as a hero.

  34. My best guess was the Covid-19 virus was causing deaths in China in November 2019 and struck Europe and North America by December2019. It could even be earlier. The Covid-19 illness was confirmed as a pandemic by World Health Organization on March 11, 2020 – far too late to have any real effect. I think that is why Sweden Is no worse than many other countries. We will know more as the post-mortem of this disease unfolds.


    By Evann Gastaldo, Newser Staff
    Posted Apr 22, 2020 4:44 AM CDT
    Updated Apr 22, 2020 6:42 AM CDT

    Santa Clara County Public Health Department Director Dr. Sara Cody speaks during a news conference in San Jose, Calif., on Friday, Feb. 28, 2020. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group via AP)
    camera-icon View 1 more image
    (NEWSER) – Up until recently, the first COVID-19 death in the US was thought to have occurred in Washington state on Feb. 29. But autopsies have revealed two earlier coronavirus deaths in California, one on Feb. 6 and the other on Feb. 17, the AP reports. The San Francisco Chronicle calls it “a stunning discovery” that radically changes the timeline of the virus in the country and adds to other recent evidence that it was circulating in the US earlier than previously believed. “We know there was a person diagnosed in late January with the virus—but to have at least three people right around the beginning of February and late January already have the infection and two of them pass away means the virus has been around for a while,” Santa Clara County Executive Jeff Smith says, per the Mercury News.

  35. Stephen

    Speaking from the UK, the lockdown has been a disaster. It has killed thousands, ruined the lives of millions and saved no one.

  36. Joy

    China didn’t flatten a curve or even squash a sombrero, (which is the scientific, technical term.)

    The virus has been ‘clocked’ by geneticists, back to September and no later than 7th November. Expect it involves models though, and experts.

    To have reached the peak in China if they are not hiding the outbreak from earlier, the infection needs to have circulated for several weeks before; then be spotted as out of the usual number of Sudden Adult Respiratory Distress cases. That doesn’t happen by statistical modelling. It happens because clinicians notice the pattern using their loaf. It takes the modellers to come along and draw the picture.

    China’s spokesperson early on, said,
    “This virus is a demon”
    Which I found very telling. They knew how bad it was and what was going to happen, so did WHO but didn’t articulate the detail in a way that would be obviously helpful for other countries, i.e. they knew the force of transmission and the adverse immune reaction in a significant number of patients. They knew about non symptomatic spread.

    That takes weeks and fits entirely with the outbreak starting in September. Fits with national epidemic rates of the disease too..
    Unless China is special:
    They claim to have reported it in four days from 23rd December. Then claim that report to WHO was on 4th January. WHO say 22/3rd Jan if I recall the date.
    (See Chinese Ambassador interview by Sky TV.)

    If there’s no agreement on that? Well the numbers and the evidence as it unfolds will tell the tale. No models required.

    Their peak looks different, their knowledge level is claimed to be the same as other countries at the time of outbreak. So either stringent lockdowns DO work as demonstrated in China or China is not reporting the deaths. Either way, China cannot be ignored over this.

    The economy is stronger than you think. Debt? apparently the world hasn’t cared about that for a very long time. Borrowing is cheap. Things could go a variety of ways. Whatever happens, people aren’t going to want to buy from China any more. By people I mean individuals. Companies and countries won’t get away with foisting foreign muck on people and insisting they like it or lump it. Make it at home is back in fashion.

  37. F4F111Col

    I thought this article was very insightful, and enjoyed it. Just a small addition to your comparison between the US and the Philippines: it’s very hot and VERY humid there ( lived there for 2 years) and indications from testing are that both conditions are very destructive to this virus.

  38. Sylvain Allard

    ” But with lower deaths, a country needs fewer tests.”

    OMG you are an idiot.
    You realize that they have a lot more death than that. Because most countries only calculate people that tested positive before there death. They will not lose test on people that are already dead.

    Most countries are under counting their Covid-19 deaths when data are compared to excess death.

    Like in New York

    There is also the false belief that most people are barely sick after being infected. Every one who get infected will get very sick. Not everyone goes to the hospital but every one is sick from 2-6 weeks before winning their battle.

    The long period of incubation make believe that people are barely sick. This is just false. They are just not sick yet.

  39. anonym

    Thank you, Professor Briggs.

  40. Tom

    NZ is today, 16 May, down to level 2 and in some ways people here in Auckland at least are back to their low tolerance , shallow , shitty, selfish selves, ie road rage, hogging the right lanes, impatience generally, the now drummed in queues while heading to supermarkets is still here, and of course the Orwellian passive tracking is to stay also, life has a aura of a surreal quality to it, of tra la land and all is well, in the land of the long white cloud, that ” Jaz ” has saved the day for the country from a fate worse than being Mordor No2 , what the Mandarins are not mentioning is the small business owners who could not open their doors due to the CV19 level 4 lock down, who killed themselves like flies, at the moment there are dozens of business owners that have taken their own lives , lively hoods destroyed, families without fathers, employee’s with lost jobs, depression, even more heartache, many , many thousands of jobs lost , whole industries gone, was or is it worth it ?, no, of course not, but like Uncle Jo said ” it’s only numbers “……..too much to ask a career politician like Jaz to understand planned economies never work, she would have been applauded by Lenin, well, since she addressed the NZ young Communists years ago, glowingly addressing the Comrades, I no longer wonder why she behaves like all careerist power mongers do. Cafes cannot open today because of the ” new ” mandarin rules, there must be four square meters per table, sign in registers if sitting down ( to track you …) it’s for YOU’RE own good, you plebian fool !. having a cafe run on the ten person per cafe rule, is of course the death knell for a cafe owner now stuck trying to pay back that 100k debt back to the bank, can’t even have the 10% profit margin to himself now, can he ? , but hey ” it’s all good now bro ! “. did I also mention Stalinda has given her minions new CV19 powers to rival the Stasi ? with guess who in charge ?, yes it’s NZ folks, always more party hacks where she came from.

  41. Bruno galvso

    Unfortunately people from the “flat corona society” will always be able to find numbers to fit their narrative. Data analysis has many rigors to account for- anyone can skew data their way.

    If you mean to get some respect on your analysis , take in account the key factor of timeliness of the lockdown measures ?

  42. JM

    Article written by a bitter and idiotic American who can’t stomach the fact that the US has proven to have the absolute worse administration, and most incompetent health care system on the planet! 🙂

  43. A

    I think one element you haven’t considered is the timing of the lockdown measures and the prevalence of the virus in each country/region at the time the lockdown started. Particularly in the USA, by the time the country responded the virus was everywhere and lockdowns were to control that spread.

    And as one of your commenters above said, the purpose of the lockdown was to reduce the overwhelm in hospitals and avoid a major crisis – it could have been a lot worse (and based on US states opening up too early it still might be. We will see).

    I am a man of numbers too but if you look only at numbers without the context behind them, you risk missing things like the timing of the lockdowns which unfortunately renders useless the rest of your fine analysis.

  44. Jane

    This analysis is proof positive of how statistics can be manipulated to provide whatever picture of reality is desired. Why aren’t all of the countries included on your histogram? Which ones did you select? Which ones did you not select? What on earth is going on in the plot of deaths per million as a function of total population? That is not how one would account for population density, and is (dare I say?) intentionally misleading. For what it is worth, I plotted deaths per million as a function of population density for western countries and there is a linear-tendency relationship – not the ridiculous buckshot variability you are leading people to believe. Why was Belgium the worst? Population density. Why did the UK do worse than Sweden? Population density. (We can’t directly compare ourselves with densely populated Asian countries, which have centralized government mechanisms experienced at dealing with epidemics – but we should be taking notes.) Sourcing from a solitary news article as evidence of the degree of “lockdown” for a given country is hardly scientific. And your commentary in the source column of your data document indelicately reveals your bias. Obviously you aren’t stupid, so how are you profiting from engineering this narrative? The most glaring problem with your analysis is that only 27 of 218 countries had “no lockdown” (according to your shallow and undefined purview of “lockdown’), and the vast majority of those are non-industrialized countries with lower average population densities, agricultural/subsistence economies, and relative few cases. There is no way to know with certainty what would have happened in the western industrialized world without “stay home” measures – so to say that there is “no evidence” that they haven’t worked is like saying there’s no evidence that the building would have burned to the ground if the fire department hadn’t gotten there when they did. We know enough about pandemics and enough about the behavior of this novel virus to know that extreme caution was warranted.

  45. Jeremy Kirkham

    With all due respect, I believe some of your assumptions are flawed.

    In order to determine if the lockdowns in the US saved lives, vs if the lockdowns in the US cost lives, one would need to run an experiment, within the US specifically, with every variable being the same, EXCEPT for the lockdowns. This is impossible and so we won’t ever know for sure.

    Thus, the headline is technically true, but inaccurate. There is no evidence that the US lockdowns saved lives…I mean, how do you quantify an individual that didn’t die of Covid? You can’t measure it. You can’t say…”Yep, you definitely would have died if we didn’t have a lockdown.” Or, “You definitely survived because we did have a lockdown.”

    However, with respect to the other part, that they caused indisputable harm, well yeah, you can easily quantify an event that DID happen. For example, we can look at the economy and say…”Yep, that sucked, and it wouldn’t have happened without the lockdowns.” However, that’s not an apples to apples comparison, and it certainly isn’t a fair comparison.

    The closest we can get are models, which we use to make the best decision possible, but you can’t quantify an event that did not happen in the same way as you can quantify an event that did happen, thus even the best model in the world can’t support your conclusions with perfect accuracy.

    Let’s look at it another way:

    Suppose I said, there is no evidence that airbags save lives. Let’s say you asked me, “What are you talking about, I’ve seen many reports about them saving lives.” I could respond, well, those people would have survived anyway without the airbag. Thus, you can’t PROVE that it was the airbag that saved the life.”

    “But, you say, just LOOK at the car…you’re telling me that this person would have survived without the airbag?” “Yes,” I respond, “that’s exactly what I’m telling you.”
    And, you would find it difficult to disprove…because of the extraordinary difficulty in quantifying an event that didn’t happen.

    However, let’s say that 5 airbags out of every 10,000 are defective and kill people by exploding with too great of force. That, you can quantify. You can say, definitively, this person died BECAUSE of the airbag.

    Thus, you might write an article saying “There is no evidence that airbags save lives. It is indisputable that they cause great harm.” Again, this would technically be a true statement…but it would not be an accurate statement.

  46. Joy

    Hello again Sylvain,
    Those you describe as barely sick after being infected, exist, and make up the majority of cases.
    Most have mild symptoms and some are (asymptomatic). Without symptoms or experience of feeling ill. Bear in mind “mild” is subjective.
    When you say,
    “everyone who gets infected will get very sick”, you are mistaken.
    The natural history of the condition has been recorded from the many thousands/millions of cases at this stage and the experience was the same inChina. Here is a description of what happens according to East/ west and first hand from individuals:
    Day 1 infection is contracted, nothing seems different.
    Day 2 nothing…outwardly
    Day 3. nothing…outwardly
    Day 4 nothing …outwardly
    Day 5. onset of symptoms (can develop as late as day 14 in small number, including at least one fatality.). Those are the timelines for broad consideration. These make the disease identifiable in patients able to describe.
    symptoms include sudden unremitting cough and a high fever. Very little productive coughing i.e. no sputum/gunge varying degrees of aching of muscles and fatigue (just like flu or bad cold.). Very severe and unpleasant in many cases for several days in a distinct pattern: worsening improving. “~^~” *(shape)
    Day 6+, symptoms gradually reducing as with cold/flu. Trailing off quickly or even slowly but a definite trend of improvement which you would recognise yourself as often happens with bad colds. They “drag on” but are getting better.
    If symptoms continue at the same plateau for more than 7 days (after onset) there is often then a sudden deterioration of breathing which quickly overwhelms so that patients require admitting to hospital.
    There are cases where people have had mild/moderate symptoms, made a slight improvement at the expected time and then suddenly ‘gone off’ fast.
    ~Day 1 symptomatically is day 5, in reality.
    ~The infection is transmissible 2-3 days before onset of symptoms. THAT is what makes Covid19 dangerous to PUBLIC health. There are also an emerging, number as yet unknown, who never develop symptoms but are showing they have antibodies. This is also bad news because those individuals also transmit before their body makes the antibodies.
    The persistent cough is the way the virus becomes airborne. The virus is in exhaled air from the nose and mouth, infection spreads in enclosed spaces very easily. The more forceful the exhale, the more virus will be expelled/ hanging in the air. (The air you see on a cold day would contain virus) Without fresh air replacement, just being in the cloud is enough.

    …and JM that’s not nice. Hope you’re being internet opposite. I can’t tell any more.

  47. Jeremy,

    That is nonsense, which you in fact seem to acknowledge but try to avoid admitting directly.

    In your example, we have clear evidence of bad crashes that we know from damage killed people in the past now not killing people.

    We also have data to compare from before and after airbags became standard.

    If, in fact, the data showed that in the same situations there were no less fatalities in the same sorts of wrecks that used to kill people when an airbag was used, but in lighter crashes people were frequently harmed then yes, we could in fact draw the conclusion that airbags do not protect but DO cause great harm.

    In this case, the majority of places that locked down still did worse than places that didn’t. There are, obviously, many possible factors as to why, but we simply do not have any reason to conclude the lockdowns helped, and lots of reasons to conclude they didn’t.

    That of course doesn’t mean they did nothing; it means we have no reason to think they did anything, and we’re basing policies on an unproven assumption.

  48. randomengineer

    Sylvain — “Every one who get infected will get very sick.”

    This is incorrect. I was infected. Gots me some antibodies to prove it. I wasn’t that sick; mostly annoyed for a spell.

    Jane — “There is no way to know with certainty what would have happened in the western industrialized world without “stay home” measures…”

    No. Stay-at-home isn’t science. It’s conjecture. Sounds good if you say it fast, and like most such conjectures, you realize how utterly silly it is once you examine it more deeply. The ex post facto conclusion that lockdowns work is an assertion, even if you word it cleverly enough to posit that they did work because “there’s no way to know.” Hah. Keep repeating it all you like, but there is no such thing as proof by repeated assertion. It could well be that mere hand washing or wearing of masks or not crowding together was just as effective — if not the working mechanism entirely. And that’s assuming there was *any* working mechanism. The virus curve looks pretty much like Farr’s law says it should look whether restrictive lockdowns or mere suggestions of how to proceed (e.g. Sweden) were implemented.

    As per what I wrote earlier, the virus was clearly in the west and killing some people in late December and early January. (I got it in January in Florida.) That means it was spreading and carrying on for **at least** 75 days prior to WHO declaring it a pandemic and 80-100 days before the US lockdowns. For you to assert that lockdowns not only work but are in fact the part that *does* work, you’re going to need to show it. Here’s a helpful hint: go look up ILInet data from CDC where you see the “influenza like illness” curves for flu seasons. Compare the present day data to past data. If lockdown works, you’ll see a radical departure. By the way, that also holds for Sweden (not locked down.) If the lockdown was the mechanism, the Farr’s law curve for Sweden should be RADICALLY different than the curves for lockdown countries. They should be digging mass graves you can see from space.

  49. Andrew Worth

    Biggs has reversed cause and effect: In reality increased spread causes countries to respond with lock-downs, not lock-downs cause increased spread, as his reasoning implies. The majority of the countries with low death rates were late to be infected (mostly late April – early May before they had 100 diagnosed cases, this is why their death rates are still relatively low, there could also well be issues in assigning cause of death in those mostly African countries as they also have low testing rates.

  50. People are missing the point. It is not that lockdowns did nothing, it is that we are acting like we’d be so much worse without them when nothing indicates that, yet much indicated they did great harm.

    We praise lockdowns as our savior when we have no idea if they did anything at all; indeed, as every single model used by experts has been disastrously, catastrophically wrong, why exactly do we believe they saved so many lives? Because they say so?

    Remember originally when they saved no lives at all, merely “flattened the curve”? Well, what happened to that? All hail our Lord and savior, Lockdown!

  51. Joy

    They work!
    NO they don’t!
    (yes they do.)

    They don’t work or are necessary for special people like us who don’t need to be told how to behave. (in a pandemic)

    Next year it’’l be:

    SEE! They worked!
    NO they didn’t!
    YES THEY DIUD!!!!dummy.

  52. Joy

    “Remember originally when they saved no lives at all, merely “flattened the curve”? Well, what happened to that?”

    I’m glad someone remembers that important point being made by medical officers and those planning the response to the epidemic.

    It was also said,

    “I would rather be twenty-four hours too late than too early with enforced social distancing”. As it was called then. Before all the pejorative talk and projection started.

    The idea is and was to prevent overwhelming of public services. Those who could be shielded were supposed to be doing so from the beginning whether told or not. Care home managers have a duty of care.

    Prior warnings:
    Everybody was warned very clearly about how to behave and what to do to prevent spread.

    The infection took off at an earlier and fast rate than was anticipated in the UK. The number of deaths will not come as such a surprise to health care providers or those in government.

    If the risks taken were just the same for catching a flu, there would be no justification for taking drastic measures. The problem here is that someone else’s risk became another person’s mortality problem.

    On Sweden:
    I have heard anecdotal that Sweden has experienced the same economic nose dive as countries that did not enforce social distancing. They also lost many more people by comparison with their Scandinavian neighbours. If indeed that is any fair comparison at all, which maybe it isn’t.

    The UK had the same philosophy as Sweden. Did Imperial’s projection make everybody panic? No. When the information changes and you have to make a decision, faced with the numbers, it would be a very unusual individual who would have done nothing.

    The reasonable worst case scenario was playing out before their eyes, and the speed was surprising. Italy’s experience was informative, too.

    Now, going forward everybody knows what to do. Perhaps people will do as they’re advised and many of the transmissions will be avoided by human behaviour.

    Lockdown worked like a hammer and sickle.

  53. Joy

    Sorry, on Sweden:
    I have heard anecdotally that Sweden HAS experienced the same economic nose dive as countries that DID enforce social distancing. “

  54. Joy,

    Annnnnd you completely missed the point of what I said.

    It is amazing how even here, even on this very post, you’re able to just blithely respond with a nope wrong they totally worked. Literally ignore everything he wrote and go duh, yeah, they worked.

  55. Blake Babcock, MD

    I am attempting to read this article without bias. Most of the comments for or against “lockdowns” are wrought with confirmation bias on this thread. I think the analysis of death rates would be greatly strengthened if co-variates such as population wide comorbidities (obesity, heart disease, HTN, age, etc…) were adjusted for. For example, Ethiopia has a median age of 18 whereas the US has a median age of 38. Obesity rates in US are much higher than Japan. We know through other studies that when controlling for other variables these comorbidities are independently associated with mortality. Also the comment on South Dakota may have a length-time bias component as this state has one of the highest number of new cases per capita currently. I think your conclusion that “we don’t have evidence that lockdowns save lives” needs to control for these population wide factors. Again, I am not saying this conclusion is not true; I am merely saying that the method in which you have presented the data allows for an enormous amount of confounding bias. Therefore, for this article to warrant statistical/scientific merit, this should be addressed. Unfortunately, most reading this article will either dismiss it or praise it as dogma to confirm what they were already believe. This is why presented evidence has peer review.

  56. Joy

    No I didn’t.

  57. Joy

    I took what you said and put it back into context with when the statement was made, before all the food fighting started.
    I didn’t misunderstand you. I think it’s the other way around if you’re still annoyed.

    The title is a trivial truth which is vague enough to appear to be conclusive on the matter. ,
    The economy and lives in a nation are intertwined.
    They are not in tension. The decision makes it seem that way. Nobody knows the future.
    You don’t know what I think.

  58. “I took what you said and put it back into context with when the statement was made, before all the food fighting started.”

    No, you absolutely did not. The point is that the people who told us it didn’t save lives either lied or were wrong.

    “The title is a trivial truth which is vague enough to appear to be conclusive on the matter.”

    Good thing he wrote an article to go along with it.

    “You don’t know what I think.”

    I’m sorry, are your comments just word salad or were you trying to say something? If you could write aaaaaaaaall of that and still say I don’t know what you think then you need to be clearer. I can only respond to your words.


    You bet.

  59. Joy

    Malcom If it isn’t clear enough, let’s leave it as a mystery.
    Forgot to say the claim was “no” evidence, which is also a reach, to use your language.
    “I took what you said and put it back into context…”
    I didn’t think you would take it so badly. I wasn’t accusing you of deliberately taking something out of context as I assume you are party to a different set of information. Some sources DO exactly that.
    Some of the individuals who are being directly contradicted are on record on TV giving evidence about possible measures for a response to the covid epidemic. Aims, reasoning, evidence. There has been a lot of false information going around which could be easily untangled.
    The health service in any country is one limiting factor to saving lives. One that was eased by taking action. Indirect death, which is what lockdowns also cause, was presented.
    . Economic effects were considered to be in tension with any social distancing measures whether voluntary or strictly imposed. Sweden’s case is showing this to be true.
    Lessons learned from other epidemics were described.
    Had Dr Chris Whitty said “stemming the flow”, he’d have been in less trouble with the more reactionary curve purists.

  60. “Malcom If it isn’t clear enough, let’s leave it as a mystery.”

    If you won’t tell me I’ll have to continue interpreting your views based on what you’re saying.

    “I didn’t think you would take it so badly”

    I’m not “taking it badly”, I just think you are wrong and missing the point.

    I have no idea what the point of the rest of your comment is or how it addresses anything anyone said.

    You really don’t add anything to discussions. I’m not saying this because I’m angry; I’m saying it because you don’t. So far all I’ve seen you do is respond to the good doctor’s articles with the equivalent of “Nah you’re wrong”.
    Occasionally you thank him for making a decent point, but that’s not the majority of your responses. When you try to give an explanation all it is is a restatement of the same position he’s responding to in the first place! That isn’t a useful response. I have no idea what your goal is here or why you’re commenting. You’re all over the place at best.

  61. Joy

    “you’re all over the place, at best’
    No Malcom, I’m in the right, (were you to admit to comprehending.).
    What is YOUR purpose for writing on this blog? Do you have an ulterior motive?

    Briggs knows my humour. You, apparently, do not.
    Still doesn’t mean he should get away with a blooper like the title of the post.
    If you know Briggs, you know that he writes to be deliberately provocative. To set a good ‘discussion’ going!
    I like to helpful…

  62. John Carver

    The data reporting is so bad, it’s not possible to make a valid analysis. Even in the US, we don’t have an accurate number of how many people “died” from COVID-19. The numbers being released by the CDC are just deaths presumed to involve COVID-19. The number of COVID-19 laboratory-confirmed hospitalizations in the US stands at a mere 19,637 (preliminary data as of May 09, 2020).
    For that, US hospitals were compensated $118 billion dollars by the federal government in the month of April.

    Trying to analyze across countries based on reported numbers is not useful, because every country has different reporting standards. And, as I pointed out in my guest post, when you see the term “confirmed death,” it often doesn’t mean anything more than a person died!

    I think analsysis could been done across countries that provide weekly all-cause mortality data.

  63. Joy

    To Dear Briggs,
    “Sweden did better than the UK, and there couldn’t have been a greater difference in strategies.”

    In fact they had the same strategy and were berated for it in the press for quite a while. Sweden also said that they would be enforcing a shut down if the numbers implied it would be necessary to save the healthcare system. Nobody wanted to see what happened in Italy with regards to turning patients away or choosing who to save.
    So again, the point at which the UK changed tack was the point at which the R rate was estimated in the range of 2.6 to 2.8. The numbers were doubling every three days despite having the SAME strategy as Sweden.

    Check the news headlines for all the complaining.

    All cause mortality will show an individual country how it fared compared to previous years. That will be revealing.

    The age problem is well understood and acknowledged by all but media and the ropier politicians. A country has no susceptibility to older and frail victims of the disease if they have no older or frail people to speak of.

    Italy has a well known older population and they tend to live in large family groups including elderly people.

    It isn’t mysterious. What makes things look odd are the differences in transparency and measurement of deaths.

    The one criticism I would make of the US is their testing has been inaccurate. This may also have lead to some odd looking rates of infection. I also blame the media drumming up a storm and making everybody think they needed a test.
    Driving up demand and forcing Trump to act, allowing clearly marked tests to be sold with quality warnings.

    There are lots of things which go wrong in an emergency but aside from a few examples of some of the governors and mayors, some South American country, Politicians have been co-operating. One New Zealander has been unbearably smug over nothing much.

    Viruses do blow in the breeze but not far when sunlight hits them and other elements in nature. They piggy back on humans. Humans kept moving and flights weren’t stopped.
    That’s what caused the pandemic. The more humans the more spread. Hence New York and London. Genetic testing is going to reveal footprints of travel.

    It was assumed that the improved weather, adverse for the virus would see a short term break in transmission. It will only “go away” when herd immunity is reached everywhere or a vaccine is developed. Treatment may well be the answer for the adverse inflammatory reactions which are causing all the stress until natural herd immunity is built up, aka Darwin’s effect times distance between vulnerable people.

  64. Daniel James

    Seriously, what a lot on non-sequiturs and BS.
    Lockdowns are the last refuge of countries that were unprepared. They are bad but you only need to look at the growth rate of infections to see that they are effective. No lockdown and the infection growth is exponential until most of the population will be infected.
    In the meantime, up to 10% of those infected will nee medical care and a good portion of those will be in intensive care.
    We saw it in Italy and Spain before they generalised a hard lockdown.
    It’s not THE solution but it’s the only way to slow down the rate of infection enough that to allow the health system to cope if no other measures were taken in time.
    Most of Asia, Australia included, took measures very early. Weeks earlier than the governments in the West, who were looking at the pandemic from afar and did ziltch to prepare themselves.
    Then all you’re left with is a lockdown to try to contain the wave and limit the number of deaths.
    Your data only shows that countries that had to implement lockdowns still had plenty of deaths. Not because of the lockdown, because they were late taking measures.
    Really a shameful way to twist the data to push some dogmatic BS.

  65. GT

    This article is utterly retarded and just further politicizes the issue. Common sense has failed us

  66. Tough to read stuff! I stopped when I read that you take the statistical fact that the countries with lockdowns have the highest death toll as an argument against lockdown. This is logically flawed and you should notice that. Moreover, look at the numbers e.g. in Brazil which you trivialize. Not only is the death toll very high and the impact on the health system devastating, but also the trend is simply frightening. This is a virus to which we have no immune response. It does also kill young people, like over a thousand of otherwise fit medical personal in Italy alone. And it puts severe damage even to the recovered. It is simply unthinkable to let it go as you suggest. Finally, nobody has a right to spread a potentially deadly sickness. Simply saying “they should stay at home if they are afraid” does not build a society I want to live in. And that is precisely the type of comments you get from writing this.

  67. Manuel Martín-Vivaldi

    Sorry, I disagree. You can’t use confinement as a cause of death when it’s a consequence.
    Spain in one of the countries with bigger death rate and stricter confinement measures. You can say that confinement doesn’t work but most people were almost dead before confinement (they were already infected or living with infected people). With only a 5% of Spanish people infected, without confinement we’ll have even more infected people and deaths.
    I agree that confinement probably is not required with current social distance measures, masks usage and a controlled infection rate. But is difficult and dangerous to discard confinement with an uncontrolled infection rate.

  68. Briggs


    Far too many commenters have said these two things, both of which are useless:

    1) I saw lockdowns work in such and such a place. No you didn’t. You saw lockdowns. You have to PROVE they work. You have to PROVE it would have been worse without them.

    2) Briggs, you with your bad stats didn’t prove lockdowns don’t work, therefore they do. No. You have to PROVE they work. I don’t have to do jack squat.

    Try to do better.

  69. Aaron Glover

    Briggs, you must be an educator to be so patient (La. pati – to suffer)

  70. ““you’re all over the place, at best’
    No Malcom, I’m in the right, (were you to admit to comprehending.).”

    As per usual, I have no clue what this means. Are you saying I am deliberately not comprehending you? I assure you that is not the case. You’re not only not right, you haven’t even come close to understanding or responding to my or Briggs’ point.

    “What is YOUR purpose for writing on this blog? Do you have an ulterior motive?”

    I don’t comment a lot. When I do it is either because I think I have something to add or have a question. In this case, what I am doing is calling you out for wasting people’s time with irrelevant tangents.

    You don’t add anything. You just repeat the same points he’s responding to or has responded to time and time again as if they’re these novel objections. They aren’t and you’re not adding to the discussion.

    “Briggs knows my humour. You, apparently, do not.”

    I couldn’t care less.

    “Still doesn’t mean he should get away with a blooper like the title of the post.”

    You have failed utterly to come close to grasping his point despite him saying it numerous times.

    “If you know Briggs, you know that he writes to be deliberately provocative. To set a good ‘discussion’ going!”

    You are not getting a good discussion going. You’re just demonstrating that you have no idea what he’s trying to say.

    “I like to helpful…”

    This is not helpful.

    Look, I don’t hate you. It’s just tiring to see you time after time writing long comments on his posts that aren’t responses to what he said but instead just restating points he already responded to. It wastes everyone’s time and isn’t productive.

  71. Joy

    Malcom, what makes you think what you say is so important?
    If Riggs had a problem with my comments he would email me and say.

    When I originally quoted you I wasn’t even expecting you to read the comment or I’d have used your name. You are the one here wasting MY time. You are in the wrong and now trying to deflect that I don’t understand! Which is just plain cheeky. I said BRIGGS likes to get a discussion going. Controversy is the whole point in argument. I’ve been in or witnessed a few here and don’t necessarily want to make obvious remarks. Sorry if you don’t like them.

    Your comments were full of projection and venom about what you say other people think or feel, not just regarding me, but the imagined enemy, I’m not so sure you’re adding anything but noise. You’re not alone though. Most of the time such comments are ignored. When I see a commenter that vexes me I don’t read their comment. I usually only read new names or my favourite reader’s comments.

    You and I are very different people.

  72. Thankful

    Thank you for writing this and sharing your honest thoughts. I was viciously personally attacked by people in a FB Covid group for simply sharing this article who did not want to debate it in a civil matter.

  73. PreventionLogicIsHard

    It also seems reasonable that the Germans were close to declaring peace and a stop to the last great war shortly before the Allies got involved.

    Imagine how many lives would’ve been saved had we not gotten involved and let it fade to the background on its own.

    As you stated, the regional disparity of effects is not well understood. We also have no idea how bad it could have been, and the virus will be resurfacing in coming months, likely with greater effect (given the track record of coronaviruses).

    Presuming the cost of the virus (which is still ongoing, not slowing down) would’ve been less than the cost of a lockdown is comparing two completely different value systems.

    One system preserves livelihood, the other preserves quality of life. Your argument is that the quality of life is more important than livelihood.

    That is a pretty privileged take my man.

  74. Kevin Bachler

    The point of the lockdowns wasn’t to save lives. Your premise is off.

  75. That makes no sense. “Flattening the curve” was meant to save lives by not overwhelming hospitals.

  76. Tom

    So what explains Denmark and Norway having far lower death rates than Sweden despite similar weather and demographics?

  77. Anonymous

    No where in the author’s “analysis” is there an account of face mask wearing compliance. More of the population wearing face masks will have a larger effect on total numbers than the author’s opinion on what the weather is like.

  78. Phil

    Why does Belgium have a higher rate than Sweden? Could it be due in party to the country’s higher population density and urbanisation? Possibly, but the author chooses to ignore or hand-waive such important factors of disease transmission when making broad comparisons across countries. He aggressively claims that he proves that lockdowns do not “work” by ignoring these very country-specific factors at play (and of course others have rightfully pointed out that his assumption that lockdowns are meant to save lives is erroneous). Of course, he does not delve into more meaningful comparisons, such as Sweden and its neighbors, but chooses to hop around the globe in search for his chosen conclusion.

  79. Dave

    Elizabeth Holby writes: “I think you may have misunderstood the purpose of the stay at home orders. It is to keep the total number of patients needing hospitalization spread out– “flatten the curve” so that the healthcare system not overwhelmed.”

    Elizabeth – in the U.S., the vast majority of the country never came close to overwhelming the hospital system. The New York City area unfortunately came close. New Orleans and Detroit were perhaps touch and go for a bit. That’s one frustration people have with governors who have been very slow to loosen restrictions: the goalposts have apparently moved from the stated “flatten the curve”.

  80. Dave

    Phil writes: “Why does Belgium have a higher rate than Sweden? Could it be due in party to the country’s higher population density and urbanisation? ”

    Belgium admittedly has a higher percent urban population than Sweden, but Sweden in turn has a higher percent urban population than the UK, France, Spain, or Italy.

    These comparisons don’t support the idea that percent of the population living in urban areas is a key factor in the comparison of fatality rates of European countries.

    It’s tough to see

  81. Joy

    To themas think they know:
    For those who really want o understand the rationale behind lockdowns or mitigations. The new virus has been revealing all sorts of ongoing vulnerabilities in a given country. You might still be unhappy about being kept indoors but it might just open your mind to other considerations. Now the peak has “passed” everyone’s understandably impatient. I don’t think there’s been a single thing said that wasn’t considered before deciding on mitigation. Even potential for asymptomatic spread.

    What is observe round the world is the media making a dog’s breakfast of the really vital instructions and information. Media seem worn down by briefings over here. The US media is wild and without scruples. Yet they repeat Trumps words and twist what he says. It reveals they don’t care about public health in the way they pretend or they wouldn’t repeat lies and twisted quotes.

    1) UK experts clearly don’t seem under any illusions about the WhO.

    2) Lack of knowledge of viral characteristics are confessed.

    3) WHO mortality rate was rejected from their 3% to 1% or much less. THAT is what the modelling predicted. NO exaggeration there. Today’s news hey presto infection rate as low as expected by those who understand epidemiology. They didn’t need a model to know it either. Just mental arithmetic.

    4) 9:43 Aims of mitigation are clearly outlined. So there’s no debate on what was said.

    The point about “Not saving lives” is a misunderstanding of the aim. There is no cure for the virus so reducing the peak will not necessarily effect the overall number of infection through time. It follows that stopping movement saves lives if it prevents overwhelming of the service and limits new cases or there would be no need to speak of doing anything at all.

    So, arguing about what was claimed OFFICIALLY, is a waste of time. .

    Fauci certainly was never that clear and always seemed like he was urgent and spur of the moment, self consciously holding back probably due to all the conflict of interest from media gossip and ‘on the side’ interviews he carried out for CNN.

    5) WHO’s influence or advisory role is remarked on..
    6) Economic effects of closing schools and negative impacts of mitigation are outlined. (See also, OBR and BOE’s Andrew Bailey giving evidence to select committee.

    Seems it has been handled as best it could have been here, but lack of knowledge on force of transmission and asymptomatic spread MAY have resulted in a slightly earlier shut down which was then shorter in duration. There’s every reason to think economic effect would be similar given that opening up again and reseeding, in the absence of tests ,adequate tracking capabilities; effects on international trade & travel the economy would still nose dive. With or without shut down. If the infection is not controlled by tracking and adequate testing capabilities it seems to me like Hobson’s choice.

    Sick and dead people can’t go to work, nor treat OTHER sick people. They don’t feel like going on holiday either. There also needs be mitigation of the economic effects in any dramatic mitigation. Complainers are either looking at the situation after the fact when the peak is over OR not acknowledging the effect of doing nothing. (See Brazil.) They can’t say they weren’t warned. Now, the countries who mitigated effectively should be ready to manage the infection without wholesale drastic measures for a second time.

    All the information has been in the public domain. No excuse for journalists deliberately or accidentally ‘unsaying’ or muddying what IS explained in all good faith and clarity by medical science advisors. Journalists have a duty of care too, in a public emergency, to be honest.

  82. Whether you agree or disagree that lockdown was initially required, it certainly has long outlived any value it might have had to “flatten the curve” (another of those abhorrent media-created fright phrases that allow people to argue forcefully without having to learn the facts). The curve is way past flat. The 14-day rolling average of fatalities (a cold statistic, but probably the most important) has been dropping since the May 3rd. The 7-day rolling average has been dropping since April 26th. They’re at about 64% and 59% of their peaks from back in mid-April.

  83. Roger

    It’s difficult to say if lockdown did or didn’t help the fight against the Covid. It definately hasn’t helped that previously massive debt bubble.

    Re Covid, there’s too many non-scientific variables at play which makes it hard to quantify. E.g. As pointed-out, Vietnam today has a population of 97241403, with 0 deaths. However, what should be noted is that it only has 324 cases (0.00033% of the population). Why only 324? Similarly, Uganda with a population of 45562477 also has 0 deaths with only 160 cases (0.00035%).

    Maybe both had limited inflows of the virus compared to other countries – it’s those difficult-to-quantify variables. Maybe many of the non-lockdown countries are less touristy (5 of the top 10 countries with the highest deaths per 1million and with populations over 1million are in the top 10 tourist destinations in the world – tourism could be just one of several contributing factor). For countries with over a million people, the average population for non-lockdown countries is 129845, for lockdown countries it is 481642 people. With higher populations, perhaps the lockdown countries felt compelled to take more action.

    It’s also difficult to compare lockdown countries (187) with non-lockdown countires (27) because of the disparity in those number (14% not in lockdown) and the differences in those unquantifiables. Unfortunately, we can’t use the statement ‘all things being equal’ when try to compare in this case because we don’t know enough of the ‘all things’ variables.

    From my own quick Worldometer number crunching: if we look at the curves for populations, cases and deaths for countries with over a million people, they roughly ebb and flow together: large populations have a relatively larger number of tests (not Brazil) and cases such as the USA. Sweden has a lower population and therefore a lower number of cases and deaths. However, compared to the number of cases, the USA (lockdown) has 5.94% deaths (0.029% of population) whereas Sweden (no lockdown) has 11.96% deaths (0.039% of population).

    When placed alongside lockdown countries, the deaths as a % of the cases are unremarkable for non-lockdown countries. Hong Kong and Taiwan could have a better control of it because of swifter action and, for example, a culture of wearing masks in Taiwan.

    We have to remember that the pandemic started before the lockdowns began which allowed time for it to spread more. Perhaps earlier decisive action would have been more favourable to a later lockdown.

  84. Mark

    A lot of misinformation on this page.

    Why was Belgium’s number for Covid-19 so high? It was because of how they counted and a desire to be transparent. They included ‘suspected’ deaths related to Covid-19 without testing to confirm. That was easy to research.

    Please don’t tout Sweden as a success. It was an awful failure with no herd immunity being realized and on a per capita basis a death rate much higher than the U.S.

    The U.S. is about to be in big trouble as I give it another week before their numbers begin to climb again with the rush to reopen — we are starting to see that and as this was the Memorial Day long weekend, let’s come back two weeks from now and reexamine the numbers as they are already sitting on the precipice of 100,00 deaths.

    We can be thankful that flattening the curve reduced the stress on our hospitals. There can be no denying that it did do that.

  85. Bobby

    Have you heard about something called “causality”? It is about cause and effect. I think you have just discovered the anti-causality. Congratulations for the great contribution to the scientific method!!!

  86. Jacqui Stevens


  87. Manuel Martín-Vivaldi

    To prove lockdown worked is difficult. But look at data in Spain (
    Which is the reason of more than 10 times difference from 1.1% to 14.2% contagions (and deaths) between regions?
    Probably there are several reason, but lockdown could be the main one. Lockdown stopped the spreading before reaching the same high levels in the regions that were less afected.

  88. “There Is No Evidence Lockdowns Saved Lives. ”

    A dumb assumption.
    By the same (dumb) token, one could also argue that there’s no evidence hiding in the London undergrounds during WWII bombings saved lives! 🙂

  89. Craig Schwartz

    I found this to be so awesome!!!! But, I’m disappointed that I didn’t read it earlier.
    Our world is changing the story as often as the sun sets. The author of this has laid down convincing evidence that our policy and the many changes that are included is NOT the correct avenue. I suppose the adversaries could say….well, that’s your idea, this is ours.
    Please confront the powers that be and insist that they listen to your “story” and let the facts speak for themselves if they don’t honor your statements.

  90. John B()


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