Non-pharmaceutical Interventions

Non-pharmaceutical Interventions

Covid 19 Interventions
  • (mrNPI) more restrictive non-pharmaceutical interventions
  • (lrNPI) less restrictive non-pharmaceutical intervention

The more restrictive the lockdown measures,  the worse the overall outcomes

European Journal of Clinical Investigation
Assessing Mandatory Stay‐at‐Home and Business Closure Effects on the Spread of COVID‐19

First published: 05 January 2021

The latest study to show the weakness of the pro-lockdown position appeared this month in the European Journal of Clinical Investigation, authored by Eran Bendavid, Christopher Oh, Jay Bhattacharya, and John P.A. Ioannidis.

Titled “Assessing Mandatory Stay-at-Home and Business Closure Effects on the Spread of COVID-19,” the authors compare “more restrictive non-pharmaceutical interventions” (mrNPI) and “less restrictive non-pharmaceutical interventions” (lrNPI). More restrictive interventions include mandatory stay-at-home orders and forced business closures. Less restrictive measures include “social distancing guidelines, discouraging of international and domestic travel, and a ban on large gatherings.” 

The researchers compare outcomes at the subnational level in a number of countries, including England, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and the United States. This is then compared against countries with less restrictive measures, primarily Sweden and South Korea, where stay-at-home orders and business closures were not widely implemented.

The conclusion:

We find no clear, significant beneficial effect of mrNPIs on case growth in any country….In none of the 8 countries and in none out of the 16 comparisons (against Sweden or South Korea) were the effects of mrNPIs significantly negative (beneficial). The point estimates were positive (point in the direction of mrNPIs resulting in increased daily growth in cases).

This data suggests that the theoretical underpinnings of the lockdown philosophy are wrong. As summed up by Bendavid et al.,

The conceptual model underlying this approach is that, prior to meaningful population immunity, individual behavior is the primary driver of reductions in transmission rate, and that any NPI may provide a nudge towards individual behavior change, with response rates that vary between individuals and over time. lrNPIs could have large anti-contagion effects if individual behavioral response is large, in which case additional, more restrictive NPIs may not provide much additional benefit. On the other hand, if lrNPIs provide relatively small nudges to individual behavior, then mrNPIs may result in large behavioral effects at the margin, and large reductions in the growth of new cases.

This study, is the latest in a long line of similar studies calling into question the assumption—for it is only an assumption—that harsh lockdowns lower mortality.


Economic considerations

In a new study from Francesco Bianchi, Giada Bianchi, and Dongho Song from the National Bureau of Economic Research, the authors conclude that the economic fallout—in terms of unemployment and its effects—will lead to nearly nine hundred thousand deaths over the next fifteen years.


Mandatory shutdowns and stay-at-home orders, leads to countless “years of life lost” through more suicide, heart disease, and drug overdoses.

Moreover, given the nature of the shutdowns and who is affected, this has lopsidedly affected women and especially Hispanic women, who are heavily represented in the workforce behind the service industry businesses shut down by government-imposed business closures.

Mandatory Lockdowns vs. Voluntary Social Distancing

The negative consequences of large-scale quarantine are so extreme (forced confinement of sick people with the well; complete restriction of movement of large populations; difficulty in getting critical supplies, medicines, and food to people inside the quarantine zone) that this mitigation measure should be eliminated from serious consideration.

2006 paper in Biosecurity and Bioterrorism: “Disease Mitigation Measures in the Control of Pandemic Influenza” by Thomas V. Inglesby, Jennifer B. Nuzzo, Tara O’Toole, and D.A

Ryan McMaken (senior editor at the Mises Institute) summarises the (lockdown) problem best

The problem with mandatory lockdowns—in contrast to voluntary social distancing—is highlighted by the fact that they indiscriminately rob vulnerable populations of the services and assistance they needAlthough we're being conditioned to believe that deaths from covid are the only deaths worth noticing, the fact is that the world includes people who are vulnerable to suicide, to drug overdoses, and to economic ruin—which comes with countless secondary effects in the form of health problems. By denying these people the freedom to seek an income and secure the social and medical support they need, we are essentially saying that those people are expendable and it's better to tilt the scales in favor of covid patients.

But as the mounting evidence discussed above suggests, the lockdowns don't even produce the desired effects. So vulnerable people suffering from depression, untreated cancer, and other life-threatening conditions were forced to simply suffer unaided for no justifiable reason. This was done to fit a political narrative, but it was based on a batch of bad assumptions, half-baked science, and the arrogance of politicians.

JRyan McMaken (@ryanmcmaken) Tweet
NPI Studies

1/ The Lancet
– back in May, researchers at The Lancet concluded that “hard lockdowns” don’t “protect old and frail” people, nor do they decrease mortality from covid-19.

Later, a July study in The Lancet stated: “The authors identified a negative association between the number of days to any lockdown and the total reported cases per million, where a longer time prior to implementation of any lockdown was associated with a lower number of detected cases per million.”

In an August 1 study, also published by The Lancet, the authors concluded, “Rapid border closures, full lockdowns, and wide-spread testing were not associated with COVID-19 mortality per million people.”


2/ Advance
A June study published in Advance by Stefan Homburg and Christof Kuhbandner found that the data “strongly suggests” that

the UK lockdown was both superfluous (it did not prevent an otherwise explosive behavior of the spread of the coronavirus) and ineffective (it did not slow down the death growth rate visibly).

In fact, the overall trend of infection and death appears to be remarkably similar across many jurisdictions regardless of what nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) are implemented by policymakers.

In a paper published with the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), authors Andrew Atkeson, Karen Kopecky, and Tao Zha found that covid-19 deaths followed a similar pattern “virtually everywhere in the world” and that “[f]ailing to account for this familiar pattern risks overstating the importance of policy mandated NPIs for shaping the progression of this deadly pandemic.”