COVID-19 Lockdowns Had High Health, Economic Costs: Swedish Study

Authored by Naveen Athrappully via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

Imposing restrictive lockdown measures during the COVID-19 pandemic led to higher excess mortality in such nations while also damaging their economies, according to a recent Swedish study.

A worker waits on a bench in a residential area during the COVID-19 lockdown in the Huangpu district of Shanghai, China, on June 10, 2022. (Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images)

Published in the Economic Affairs journal on Feb. 11, the study—which looked at the health and economic effects of COVID-19 lockdowns in Sweden—found that its less restrictive COVID-19 policies led to lower excess mortality compared to many European nations that imposed stronger lockdown rules. Sweden also suffered a lower negative impact on gross domestic product (GDP) growth during the pandemic period.

Many policymakers made two key mistakes, researchers concluded.

“First, they introduced lockdowns that were too stringent and had negligible positive health effects despite the evidence available at the time pointing toward the limited benefits of such broad measures.

Second, they responded to the downturn in economic activity with fiscal and monetary policies that were excessively expansionary.

Researchers looked at the excess mortality in Sweden between January 2020 and July 2022, comparing it to other European nations in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) group.

“Sweden and the other Nordic countries had among the lowest cumulative excess mortality rates of all European countries towards the end of the sample period,” they found. “Countries such as Finland and Norway, with the lowest average lockdown rate, show the lowest excess mortality, actually displaying a negative excess mortality rate.”

Sweden, which lagged behind other countries in March 2020 in introducing lockdown measures and then largely had an average lockdown rate, has one of the lowest cumulative excess mortality rates towards the end of the pandemic.”

Nations that imposed more stringent lockdown measures didn’t have a lower excess mortality rate, the study said.

For instance, school closures were likely an “inefficient policy” since kids were “relatively mildly affected by Covid-19 and were not a major source of the spread of the virus.”

Of the 20,000 deaths in Sweden during the pandemic, only 21 people younger than the age of 19 years died even as all primary schools remained open throughout the pandemic, the study noted.

Economic Implications

Among economic effects, a “clear negative pattern” was observed in GDP growth rates between 2019 and 2021.

“Countries with a higher lockdown rate displayed poorer economic growth.”

Sweden was found to be doing better than others.

“Sweden, with an average lockdown rate of 39 for 2020–21, shows a weak cumulative GDP growth of 3 percent during the two years 2020–21. Compared with an average annual pre-pandemic growth rate of 2.6 percent, the Swedish economy lost approximately one year of growth,” the study said. However, “countries with a higher lockdown rate lost between one and three years of economic growth.”

In other words, the Swedish economy took a hit as a result of the pandemic, but it was nevertheless possible to maintain a positive growth rate by avoiding the more severe lockdown measures applied in other countries.”

Lockdown measures also had a fiscal impact. Sweden’s budget deficit due to COVID-19 restrictions was less than 3 percent of its GDP. Nations with more stringent lockdown measures had a higher deficit. For instance, the United Kingdom had a budget deficit of 27 percent, Italy 17 percent, and France 16 percent.

After the pandemic, Sweden had a debt-to-GDP ratio of 36 percent at the end of 2021, just slightly higher than the 35 percent before the pandemic. By the end of 2022, that had declined to 34 percent.

By contrast, France’s debt-to-GDP ratio after the pandemic was higher than what Greece encountered in 2009 at the beginning of the European debt crisis.

The unprecedented expansionary fiscal measures may have been necessary to support businesses and households through the pandemic and the lockdowns,“ the study said. ”However, the fiscal cost of these measures became exceedingly high in those countries that opted for a higher lockdown rate.”

Researchers recommended that any response to a pandemic crisis in the future “should focus on the long-term perspective” as well.

“We are not all dead in the long run—many have to live with the consequences of the pandemic crisis response. It is essential that crisis policies do not cause more harm than good.”

The research was conducted by Frederick N.G. Andersson and Lars Jonung, two professors from Lund University in Sweden.

Mr. Andersson is a macroeconomist specializing in long-term economic transitions. Mr. Jonung is a professor emeritus at the Department of Economics in the university and served as chairman of the Swedish Fiscal Policy Council during 2012-13.

Litany of Lockdown Harms

Other studies also have detailed lockdown-related harms.

A report published by the Centre of Social Justice (CSJ) think tank last year found that the COVID-19 pandemic was the “dynamite” that blew open the “gap between those who can get by and those stuck at the bottom” in the United Kingdom.

During lockdown: calls to a domestic abuse helpline rose 700 percent; mental ill-health in young people went from one in nine to one in six; and nearly a quarter amongst the oldest children; severe school absence jumped by 134 percent,” it said.

In addition, “1.2 million more people went on working-age benefits; 86 percent more people sought help for addictions; prisoners were locked up for more than 22 hours per day, and a household became homeless every three minutes.”

In an interview with Bill Maher last year, Scott Galloway, a marketing professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business, acknowledged that his decision to push for harsher lockdown policies during the COVID-19 pandemic was wrong.

“I was on the board of my kids’ school during COVID. I wanted a harsher lockdown policy, and, in retrospect, I was wrong. … The damage to kids from keeping them out of school longer was greater than the risk.”



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