Chief White House medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said during a televised interview with the BBC this week that he doesn't believe it can be known if the COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions were worth the unintended costs to people.
"I don't think we're ever going to be able to determine what the right balance is," Fauci said during an interview on the BBC's Sunday Morning television broadcast. "I think the restrictions, if you want to use that word, which I tend to shy away from, lockdowns, certainly prevented a lot of infections, prevented a lot of hospitalizations, and prevented a lot of deaths. There's no doubt about that."
He did say that the level of "restrictions on society" imposed during the two years of the pandemic led to "unintended, negative consequences," such as children not attending school and the psychological effects it could have on them, and the economic stress that the restrictions placed on individual families and the national economy.
"Obviously, those are negative consequences that are unintended," he said.
A study by the Johns Hopkins Institute for Applied Economics, Global Health and the study of Business Enterprise published in January found that the lockdowns had "little to no public health effect," but "imposed enormous economic and social costs" where they were enacted.
"While this meta-analysis concludes that lockdowns had little to no public health effects, they have imposed enormous economic and social costs where they have been adopted," the study said. "In consequence, lockdown policies are ill-founded and should be rejected as a pandemic policy instrument."
The study contradicts Fauci's assertion that the restrictions, lockdowns in particular, decreased the death rate from COVID-19, especially the first wave in March 2020.
"Overall, our meta-analysis fails to confirm that lockdowns have had a large, significant effect on mortality rates," the study said. "Studies examining the relationship between lockdown strictness, find that the average lockdown in Europe and the United States only reduced COVID-19 mortality by 0.2% compared to a COVID-19 policy based solely on recommendations."
A study a year earlier published by Cambridge University Press found that the psychological impacts of the lockdowns "were not clear," because the measures instituted had never been tried before.
"The spread of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 [SARS-CoV-2] has resulted in an unprecedented series of lockdowns worldwide," that study from January 2021 reported. "Although these lockdowns have varied in stringency between and within countries, they have substantially altered people's daily lives globally, affecting their work, leisure activities, livelihood, and capacity for in-person social interaction. It is difficult to draw definitive conclusions regarding the impact of coronavirus disease 2019 [COVID-19] lockdowns from prior research, because the COVID-19 lockdowns have marked qualitative differences from those of previous pandemics."
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