After the successful control of the COVID-19 pandemic in most countries, a second wave has started. This is leading to the reimplementation of strict measures including nation-wide lockdowns to help stop the spread of the disease. This article argues that the implications of lockdowns are costly and provides some examples of the resulting devastating effects.
Omar As’sadiq, Staff Writer
According to a study by the Journal of Translational Medicine, strict lockdown with heavy PCR testing and contact tracing reduces the COVID-19 cases and fatality rate greatly. Multiple countries like New Zealand, Iceland, and Jordan have successfully eradicated the virus from their grounds due to long strict lockdowns. However, the costs and consequences of the lockdowns were unprecedented especially in developing countries.
The scientific study of people’s interactions with their decisions, Economics, states that if people are rational, they would do something as long as the benefit is greater than the cost. Unfortunately, the decision of implementing lockdowns in some countries is irrational as the costs outweigh the benefits of reducing mortality rate due to COVID-19. Here is an extensive but not limiting list of the implications of lockdowns:
Mortality from Malnutrition
It is estimated that a quarter of the world’s population survives on $3 or less per day. This estimate is now even worse due to the pandemic where the International Food Policy Research Institute estimated an additional 140 million will undergo extreme poverty surviving on less than $1.90 per day. The loss of jobs and employment of millions of people will force them to starve from malnutrition. In countries which already have hundreds dying every day from hunger, the effect of lockdowns on them will be disastrous.
Increase in Negative Psychological Conditions
Studies have shown various links between social isolation and increased risk of negative mental health status that could result from lockdowns. A former U.S. Surgeon General suggested loneliness could lead to reduced lifespan and greater risks of mental and physical diseases. What a lot of people do not realize is that mental problems can be a serious public health concern alone.
One of the most alarming fears caused by the pandemic is the increase in rates of suicide. QJM: An International Journal of Medicine argues that COVID-19 creates uncertainty, social isolation, and economic problems which directly affects vulnerable people including individuals with pre-existing mental disorders. Consequently, an increase in depression, anxiety, substance use, and other psychiatric conditions will lead to higher rates of suicide.
Increase in Heart Diseases
In a recent article released by Cleveland Clinic showcased evidence that the increase in stress from the pandemic is correlated to an increase in heart disease. The research focused on a cardiovascular disease called Cardiomyopathy that is a type of heart failure that occurs due to stress. A comparison of patients admitted to the hospital for cardiac catheterization (a form of heart surgery) before and after the pandemic showed that there is a significant increase in stress cardiomyopathy in patients admitted during the pandemic. As a result, higher mortality rates due to stress cardiomyopathy is expected.
Increase in Domestic Violence
The World Health Organization (WHO) defined domestic violence as violence within the place of residence that takes place in various forms including physical, sexual, psychological,and economical. The lockdown and quarantine imposed as a result of the pandemic forced many vulnerable individuals including women and children in abusive households to experience more domestic abuse.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) predicted a 20 percent increase in domestic violence globally in 2020. To understand what these statistics actually mean let us consider the data for domestic violence in Bangladesh. In April 2020, 4,249 women and 456 children were reported to have been subjected to domestic violence and blamed the lockdown for their situation. A different report from January to June 2020 showcased that a total of 107 women were brutally murdered by their husbands but with only 67 of these being filed and reported.
Overall, the pandemic has not only caused an increase in domestic violence but has also restricted the available resources for victims to report and seek resources. Hotlines, crisis centres, shelters, legal aid, and protection and counselling services have all stopped or reduced operations dramatically, leading to domestic violence victims becoming unable to reach out to seek proper help.
Sexual violence and abuse in young people have also increased due to the closure of schools around the world. For some children and teens that live in certain countries, school is a much safer environment than home. As a result of the lockdowns, an increase in teen pregnancies will force some girls to discontinue their education after the pandemic and subject them to tremendous negative psychological effects.
So are we supposed to not lockdown and save lives?
Not necessarily. At the beginning of this article, we introduced an important economic concept that people are willing to do something if the benefit is greater than the cost. Governments must assess the actual costs of lockdowns before mandating it. What happens if the costs outweigh the benefits? Should the governments just let COVID-19 cases rise and more people die from it? The answer is No. The point of this article is not to discourage the implementation of certain restrictions to combat the pandemic, but to shed the light on the effects of some of these restrictions. Head officials must encourage and force social distancing, masks, and proper hygiene appropriately but bear in mind the consequences of other laws such as quarantine.
Jamison, J. C. (2020). Lockdowns will starve people in low-income countries. The Washington Post.
· Pachetti, M., Marini, B., Giudici, F. et al. Impact of lockdown on Covid-19 case fatality rate and viral mutations spread in 7 countries in Europe and North America. J Transl Med 18, 338 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12967-020-02501-x
· Impacts of COVID-19 on childhood malnutrition and nutrition-related mortality. The Lancent. 2020 https://www.thelancet.com/pdfs/journals/lancet/PIIS0140-6736(20)31647-0.pdf
· Weiss, G. M. (2020). Psychological Stress and Cardiovascular Health in the COVID-19 Era. Practical Cardiology. https://www.practicalcardiology.com/view/psychological-stress-and-cardiovascular-health-in-the-covid-19-era
· Chidambaram, P., Munana, C. 2020. The Implications of COVID-19 for Mental Health and Substance Use. https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/the-implications-of-covid-19-for-mental-health-and-substance-use/
· Leo Sher, The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on suicide rates, QJM: An International Journal of Medicine, Volume 113, Issue 10, October 2020, Pages 707–712, https://doi.org/10.1093/qjmed/hcaa202
· Sifat R. I. (2020). Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on domestic violence in Bangladesh. Asian journal of psychiatry, 53, 102393. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajp.2020.102393
· Roesch Elisabeth, Amin Avni, Gupta Jhumka, García-Moreno Claudia. Violence against women during covid-19 pandemic restrictions BMJ 2020; 369 :m1712. https://www.bmj.com/content/369/bmj.m1712