Did lockdowns save the world from Covid doom?

It is arguable that the world has yet to feel the full effects of the lockdowns that were imposed on us. Should lockdowns be a pandemic policy instrument? Our excess death inquiry continues.

Reviewed by Todd Kenyon and Jonathan Engler
This article is working document and is open to queries and corrections.  Email [email protected]

In a previous article in this series we looked at whether or not the SARS-CoV-2 virus was either entirely novel or particularly lethal.[1] Multiple studies were referenced to demonstrate that about 50% of people had sufficient immunity to Covid to prevent noticeable illness, most likely on account of a previous infection with the common cold. Also, we found that the mortality burden of Covid was no worse than a normal flu season. Some people might be inclined to argue that the reason that Covid deaths in 2020 were so low in countries such as Canada is because lockdowns and other restrictions prevented Covid from spreading faster. As promised, we return to this topic to investigate it further. We begin by continuing with our focus on what happened in Canada.

Dr Theresa Tam, the chief medical officer in Canada, has co-authored a report that makes the claim that 800,000 lives were saved by the restrictions and vaccines. The authors assert: 

In March 2020, Canada was faced with a highly transmissible and virulent pathogen (Infection fatality rate of approximately 1%…) for which there was no natural immunity, no vaccine…and no effective antivirals. Therefore…until vaccines were developed, the only available interventions were non-pharmaceutical interventions [NPIs]…that prevent transmission in the population.[2]

If true, lockdowns and other NPIs did indeed save the world from a terrible Covid calamity. Sadly, however, almost every phrase of the above quote is incorrect. As we saw in the preceding article, about half the population had at least some natural immunity before 2020. The IFR of Covid was not 1% but 0.15%. Waiting for a vaccine served no purpose at all because the injections not only increased the number of infections but caused adverse events that proved to be more burdensome than Covid. Much of this was known by the end of March 2020.

To highlight the gross failure of this report, however, let us assume for sake of argument that the IFR of Covid really was 1% as they claim, that there was no natural immunity, and that Covid was destined to infect the entire population. Even in this utterly implausible scenario, the maximum number of Covid deaths in a population of 38 million would be 380,000. Therefore it is quite impossible that lockdowns and vaccines spared 800,000 lives. 

It is estimated that during the first year of Covid, about 228,000 children in South Asia perished as a direct consequence of the massive disruptions caused by the global lockdowns.

Did lockdowns prevent 380,000 Covid deaths in Canada? It is possible to calculate a ‘ballpark’ estimate of the maximum number of Covid deaths that might have been prevented by lockdowns and other NPIs by using the published fatality rate of 0.15%, and the observation that at least 50% of people were immune to Covid. In this case, the maximum number of Covid deaths in Canada in 2020 would have been 28,500 (38 million people x 0.5 x 0.0015). Since this is the maximum number of Covid deaths, it is also the absolute maximum number of Covid deaths that might have been prevented by lockdowns. This maximum is 28 times less than the number of lives the government paper claims were spared. Not to be missed is that the paper was written by the very people who ordered lockdowns and vaccine mandates in the first place, and thus the authors have a significant conflict of interest.

Returning to the topic of lockdowns, in order for NPIs to have actually prevented all 28,500 deaths, it would have been necessary for those NPIs to prevent anyone from ever getting infected with Covid, not only in 2020, but in every year thereafter for the rest of time, or until a successful vaccine was developed. But the NPIs did not stop infections, for there were 565,500 infections reported in Canada in 2020.[3] Nor did Canada remain locked down forever (thankfully!). And, as we have seen, the vaccines were a dismal failure at preventing Covid infections.

Did lockdowns prevent a fraction of the 28,500 maximum deaths? One might think that since Canada reported 16,151 Covid deaths in 2020, the lockdowns may have at least prevented 12,349 deaths.  Whether this is the case or not, however, we return to the tricky issue of how accurate the published data is. As we saw in the previous article, multiple factors—from changes to death certificate protocols to PCR issues—have introduced errors into the recorded number of Covid deaths. This makes it difficult to accurately assess how many people died from Covid, and therefore also how many deaths, if any, were avoided by lockdowns.

One possible solution is to tease out the effect of lockdowns and NPIs by comparing neighbouring states that opted for different levels of restrictions. Such a study is possible because hundreds of countries, states and provinces around the world implemented restrictions in response to Covid, but the stringency and timing of these responses varied. There are some limitations to such a method of investigation, of course, for even neighbouring states may have different mortality rates in a normal year, depending on the average age of the citizens, general health, income levels, and so forth. But, owing to the global extent of the problem, it should be possible to get a first-order estimate of the effect of lockdowns.

Was such a study done? Actually, hundreds of them were. For instance, Dr Makridis studied the closure of houses of worship in America and concluded that “there is no statistically significant evidence that these restrictions have a negative effect on either Covid-19 infections or deaths.”[4] Dr John Ioannidis surveyed ten countries and reported that “while small benefits cannot be ruled out, we do not find significant benefits on case growth of more restrictive NPIs.”[5] Dr Steve Hanke of John Hopkins University and his colleagues, after conducting a meta-analysis of 24 papers about lockdowns, summarised the results by saying that “lockdowns had little to no effect on Covid-19 mortality…. In consequence, lockdown policies are ill-founded and should be rejected as a pandemic policy instrument.”[6] And Dr Paul Alexander surveyed over 400 studies and concluded that “mask mandates, lockdowns, and school closures have had no discernible impact of virus trajectories.”[7]

A good example of how useless lockdowns were at containing the spread of Covid is the comparison between North and South Dakota, neighbouring states with similar demographics and similar climates. South Dakota implemented no lockdowns at all, while North Dakota closed some businesses. As can be seen from the following graph of cases in the two states, any difference in outcome is negligible.

Source: https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#compare-trends_comptrends-cases-new-raw-lin

If lockdowns did not change the trajectory of Covid, either in terms of infections or deaths, then lockdowns did not spare us from a Covid calamity. And in that case, it is safe to say (as we did in our previous article)[1] that Covid turned out to be no worse than a normal flu season because it was no worse than a normal flu. 

While NPIs may not have affected Covid, they certainly did affect other things. And since this mini-series is an inquiry into excess deaths, it is appropriate to analyse what effect, if any, lockdowns might have had on mortality. Since lockdowns were a near-global phenomenon of unprecedented proportions, we should expect to see massive ramifications, not only on the economy, but also on mortality and health in general. 

The expected tragedy did indeed come to pass. In the USA, “the proportion of mental health-related emergency department visits among adolescents aged 12 to 17 increased 31% compared with that during 2019.”[8] In the UK there was “an unprecedented acceleration in alcoholic liver disease deaths” during 2020.[9] Statistics Canada reported that during the first full year of the Covid era, lockdowns and other monumental changes caused an extra 4,155 people under 65 to die, which was more than three times the number of Covid deaths assigned to this same age group.[10, 11]. In Zimbabwe, an additional 1.3 million people “fell into extreme poverty” on account of the economic fallout of the global lockdowns.[12] Similar results in India led to “large sections of the poor pushed to food rationing.”[13] It is estimated that during the first year of Covid, about 228,000 children in South Asia perished as a direct consequence of the massive disruptions caused by the global lockdowns.[14]. Children, it will be recalled, were typically not at any risk from Covid.[15] Indeed, Unicef reported that the first year of lockdown was “devastating” for children around the world, and concluded that “children will bear the scars of the pandemic for years to come.”[16] As we have seen, however, it was not the ‘pandemic’ that caused this disturbing nightmare for children, but the decisions of policy makers around the world to shut down businesses, close schools, forbid church services, and ban social gatherings. 

Although many more of the destructive consequences of locking down the world’s economies might be mentioned here, to be brief it is sufficient to end with a quote from a study that analysed all-cause mortality in 24 countries to determine what effect, if any, NPIs had. The author affirmed that “the results suggest that lockdowns may have led to significantly higher mortality among the population aged between 60 and 79 years.”[17] Moreover, by comparing countries that implemented severe restrictions with those that opted for a more mild approach, it was concluded that “the hard lockdown group experienced 372 additional deaths per million, while the other group only experienced excess mortality of 123 deaths.”

In summary, lockdowns did not stop the spread of Covid, but did cause untold misery, starvation and death around the world, especially in low-income countries. Lockdowns, as everyone should have predicted, caused significant excess deaths in those countries that implemented them. The figure of 372 deaths per million equates to a fatality rate of 0.04%. Although this number is less than the average IFR of Covid, lockdowns primarily killed younger people than Covid did. For example, in the USA, “40% of excess deaths” came from the under “65 age stratum.”[18] Hence, if we were to judge the outcome of the lockdowns using “quality years of life” (as is commonly used by health economists to evaluate the benefits of certain interventions), we would have to say they had a catastrophically negative impact.

It is on account of terrifying facts such as these that multiple authors have spoken so derogatorily about lockdowns. For instance, Douglas Allen of Simon Fraser University wrote: “It is possible that lockdown will go down as one of the greatest policy failures in Canada’s history.”[19] Similarly, Dr Martin Kulldorff of Harvard affirmed that “lockdown…is a public health tragedy of epic proportions.”[20] And, Dr David Nabarro of WHO said that “lockdowns have just one consequence that you must never belittle and that is making poor people an awful lot poorer.”[21]

In conclusion, Covid was not entirely novel. Nor was it particularly lethal. Rather, it was at most on par with a normal flu season. The response by governments to this virus was utterly disproportionate, however, and served only to increase mortality. It is arguable that the world has yet to feel the full effects of the lockdowns that were imposed on us, for the impoverishment of huge swathes of the world, and the enormous economic disruptions will likely result in health and wellbeing damage that lasts for multiple generations.

Just as we found during our investigation of the experimental Covid injections, this inquiry into the lockdowns has also revealed that the cure was worse than the disease. Never in the history of the world have so many suffered so much to accomplish so little on account of something so minor.


  1. Verduyn, Thomas et al, “Was SARS-Cov-2 entirely novel or particularly deadly?” PANDA, 2023, https://pandata.org/was-sars-cov-2-entirely-novel-or-particularly-deadly/
  2. Ogden, Nicholas et al, “Counterfactuals of effects of vaccination and public health measures on COVID-19 cases in Canada: What could have happened?” Government of Canada, 2023,  https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/phac-aspc/documents/services/reports-publications/canada-communicable-disease-report-ccdr/monthly-issue/2022-48/issue-7-8-july-august-2022/ccdrv48i78a01-eng.pdf
  3. Our World in Data, COVID-19 Data Explorer – Our World in Data
  4. Christos A. Makridis, “When houses of worship go empty: The effects of state restrictions on well-being among religious adherents,” European Economic Review, Volume 149, 2022, 104279, ISSN 0014-2921, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.euroecorev.2022.104279
  5. Bendavid, E, Oh, C, Bhattacharya, J, Ioannidis, JPA. “Assessing mandatory stay-at-home and business closure effects on the spread of COVID-19.” Eur J Clin Invest. 2021; 51:e13484. https://doi.org/10.1111/eci.13484
  6. Herby, Jonas et al, “A Literature Review and Meta-Analysis of the effects of Lockdowns on Covid-19 Mortality,” Studies in Applied Economics, 2022, https://sites.krieger.jhu.edu/iae/files/2022/01/A-Literature-Review-and-Meta-Analysis-of-the-Effects-of-Lockdowns-on-COVID-19-Mortality.pdf
  7. Alexander, Paul, “More Than 400 Studies on the Failure of Compulsory Covid Interventions (Lockdowns, Restrictions, Closures),” Brownstone Institute, 2021, https://brownstone.org/articles/more-than-400-studies-on-the-failure-of-compulsory-covid-interventions/
  8. Yard, Ellen, “Emergency Department Visits for Suspected Suicide Attempts Among Persons Aged 12–25 Years Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic — United States, January 2019–May 2021,” CDC 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7024e1.htm
  9. Public Health England, “Alcoholic liver deaths increased by 21% during year of the pandemic,” 2021, https://www.gov.uk/government/news/alcoholic-liver-deaths-increased-by-21-during-year-of-the-pandemic
  10. Anonymous, “Provisional death counts and excess mortality, January 2020 to April 2021,” Statistics Canada, 2021, https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/210712/dq210712b-eng.htm
  11. Willford, Denette, “More young Canadians died from ‘unintentional side effects’ of the pandemic, not COVID,” Toronto Sun, July 13, 2021, https://torontosun.com/news/more-young-canadians-died-from-unintentional-side-effects-of-the-pandemic-not-covid/wcm/f69299f7-9373-412b-860d-e75ff6219190/amp/
  12. Anonymous, “Half of Zimbabweans fell into extreme poverty during Covid,” 2021, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/jun/21/half-of-zimbabweans-fell-into-extreme-poverty-during-covid
  13. Bharadwaj, Aditya, “Food security evades labourers following job loss during Covid-19 lockdown,” 2021, The Hindu, https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/food-security-evades-labourers-following-job-loss-during-covid-19-lockdown/article34897969.ece
  14. Anonymous, “Covid-19 disruptions killed 228,000 children in South Asia, says UN report,” BBC, 2021, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-56425115
  15. Pezzullo AM, Axfors C, Contopoulos-Ioannidis DG, Apostolatos A, Ioannidis JPA. “Age-stratified infection fatality rate of COVID-19 in the non-elderly population.” Environ Res. 2023 Jan 1;216(Pt 3):114655. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2022.114655. Epub 2022 Oct 28. PMID: 36341800; PMCID: PMC9613797
  16. Anonymous, “Across virtually every key measure of childhood, progress has gone backward, UNICEF says as pandemic declaration hits one-year mark,” Unicef, 2021, https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/across-virtually-every-key-measure-childhood-progress-has-gone-backward-unicef-says
  17. Christian Bjørnskov, “Did Lockdown Work? An Economist’s Cross-Country Comparison,” CESifo Economic Studies, Volume 67, Issue 3, September 2021, Pages 318–331, https://doi.org/10.1093/cesifo/ifab003
  18. Levitt, M., Zonta, F. & Ioannidis, J.P.A. “Excess death estimates from multiverse analysis in 2009–2021.” Eur J Epidemiol (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10654-023-00998-2
  19. Allen, Douglas, “Covid Lockdown Cost/Benefits: A Critical Assessment of the Literature” Simon Fraser University, 2021, https://www.sfu.ca/~allen/LockdownReport.pdf?
  20. Oliver, May, “We Cannot Afford to Censor Dissenting Voices During a Pandemic – Prof Martin Kulldorff,” Daily Sceptic, 2021, https://dailysceptic.org/2021/03/31/we-cannot-afford-to-censor-dissenting-voices-during-a-pandemic-prof-martin-kulldorff/
  21. Doyle, Michael, “WHO doctor says lockdowns should not be main coronavirus defence,” ABC 2020, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-10-12/world-health-organization-coronavirus-lockdown-advice/12753688


Thomas Verduyn has an honors B.A.Sc in aerospace engineering. He has a wide range of work experiences including computer consulting, construction, transportation, accounting, and entrepreneurship. He is an avid reader of many different fields. He has published multiple books, is keenly interested in health, and is passionate about knowing God.


Todd brings a wealth of knowledge and a range of expertise to the PANDATA panel. He has a PhD in Marine Biology, a BS in Mechanical Engineering, is a Charted Financial Analyst and a patented inventor and entrepreneur. Todd has a keen interest in endurance and water sports.

Jonathan started his career in clinical medicine. After a few years, he moved into the Pharma Industry, designing and running an international clinical trial program, before he and a colleague spotted a gap in the market for a company utilising IT to automate several clinical trial processes. The company they founded was sold, it had 6 offices worldwide and 500 employees. Jonathan then retrained as a lawyer, but having missed the commercial world he invested in several Healthcare start-ups, one of which (involved in cancer diagnostics) he now chairs.

Publisher’s note: The opinions and findings expressed in articles, reports and interviews on this website are not necessarily the opinions of PANDA, its directors or associates.

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