If you’ve seen any of Alan Jones’s recent commentary on Sky Australia you may have heard him talk about a recent cost-benefit analysis (CBA) of Canada’s COVID lockdown. Episode 90 of my Economics Explored podcast features a discussion regarding COVID lockdown costs versus benefits with the author of that study, Professor Douglas Allen from Simon Fraser University. Professor Allen has concluded COVID lockdowns have been the greatest peacetime policy failure in Canada’s history.
Professor Allen argues that lockdowns haven’t been that effective, due to substantial non-compliance (and given that, in the no-lockdowns counterfactual, people would have changed their behaviour anyway), and the initial projections of a huge number of COVID infections and deaths were based on simplistic and inaccurate models.
Note that Professor Allen carefully distinguishes between countries in which COVID had already taken off (i.e. US, UK, Canada) and countries which had the option of pursuing an isolation strategy (i.e. Australia and NZ), where an initial lockdown to eliminate COVID may have had some merit. That said, Professor Allen notes in our conversation that an isolation strategy is risky, and we talked about how Australia’s slow progress on vaccinations is now having a big cost.
A photo taken during the time of Brisbane’s first lockdown during April 2020 of a deserted Jimmy’s on the Mall restaurant, with a sign saying they will be back when permitted by authorities.
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