Are we better-off? The benefits and costs of Australian COVID-19 lockdown

Pak, Anton, Adegboye, Oyelola A., and McBryde, Emma S. (2021) Are we better-off? The benefits and costs of Australian COVID-19 lockdown. Frontiers in Public Health, 9. 798478.

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Abstract

When compared with other countries, Australia has fared much better in COVID-19 outcomes, having experienced low COVID-19 cases, hospitalisations, and deaths. Although it is difficult to know with certainty what and to what degree led to these advantageous outcomes, many attributed this success to the early implementation of strict border closure limiting cross-border transmission and being an Island nation (1–3). Australia has been proceeding with the elimination strategy aiming to contain and crush emerging outbreaks quickly through a suite of public health interventions, with lockdowns playing a central role. However, as vaccination rates continue to rise in Australia, we opine that the lockdowns and other stringent non-pharmaceutical interventions should be phasedown as the cost to the individuals, community, and the economy is likely to outweigh the benefits of these restrictions.

At the beginning of the pandemic, most countries followed and defended the implementation of lockdowns, with the early calculations suggesting that benefits far outweigh the costs (3–5). Some empirical studies also observed heterogeneity in the effectiveness of lockdowns and advocated for a careful consideration of demographic, economic, and societal factors before implementing stay-at-home orders, especially in developing countries in which many people rely on day-to-day economic resources (6, 7). However, using more recent data, others provided a different assessment arguing that lockdowns cause more harm than good even in developing countries—with the benefit-cost ratio being significantly overestimated (8, 9). Considering the burden of prolonged lockdown that Sydney and Melbourne have been experiencing and taking into account the increasing vaccination rates across the country, our governments need to carefully consider when and how to lift lockdown and other restrictions, as there is no doubt the cost of getting this wrong is very high.

Following a critical review by Allen (10), we discuss the issues associated with the evaluation of lockdown costs and benefits and provide an opinion on lockdowns doing potentially more harm than good as Australia achieves high vaccination rates. This may be useful in timely discussions among the public, media, public health officials, and decision-makers.

Item ID: 71056
Item Type: Article (Short Note)
ISSN: 2296-2565
Keywords: SARS-CoV-2, COVID-19, lockdown, cost-benefit, Australia
Copyright Information: © 2021 Pak, Adegboye and McBryde. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
Date Deposited: 08 Dec 2021 02:47
FoR Codes: 38 ECONOMICS > 3801 Applied economics > 380108 Health economics @ 50%
32 BIOMEDICAL AND CLINICAL SCIENCES > 3202 Clinical sciences > 320211 Infectious diseases @ 50%
SEO Codes: 20 HEALTH > 2002 Evaluation of health and support services > 200205 Health policy evaluation @ 50%
28 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 2801 Expanding knowledge > 280108 Expanding knowledge in economics @ 50%
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