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Lockdowns and mandates impede far better voluntary safety measures

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After a year of start-and-stop public-health measures, more often guided by intuition than by science, studies are confirming what economists long suspected: The COVID-19 lockdowns were an expensive, unnecessary failure — because they failed to account for individual responses to the pandemic.

Epidemiologists viewed lockdowns as the logical response to a new virus to which humans lacked immunity and that could overwhelm hospitals and cause many deaths. Yet health economists have long understood that people respond to incentives and alter their behaviors to avoid the risks and costs of infectious diseases. Epidemiologists failed to account for these voluntary changes in assessing what would happen without a lockdown.

The influential Imperial College of London model was typical. In March 2020, it predicted an exponential growth of cases that would overwhelm ICU bed capacity by April and cause 2.2 million US deaths by July. The authors recommended prolonged lockdowns until vaccines became available.

The model grossly overpredicted deaths because of critical errors, including an unrealistically high infection-fatality rate. Most important, its predictions were based on the “unlikely” scenario that there would be no changes in individual behavior.

An empty Times Square while New York City was on lockdown for COVID-19 on March 29, 2020.G.N.Miller/NYPost


© New York Post

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