A comparison study of epidemic outbreaks between countries that have used lockdowns and those that have used less stringent measures has shown that the benefits of lockdowns may be overrated.
But what if containment is not the answer? A study published Jan. 5 in the European Journal of Clinical Investigation supports that decision, noting that strict containment does not provide “significant benefits” in the fight against the spread of covid-19.
Containment has the opposite effect
The researchers compared the increase in Covid-19 cases in eight countries using strict containment (France, England, Iran, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, and the United States) with Sweden and South Korea. These two countries have opted for milder measures and have not banned the movement of people or the closure of businesses.
However, the researchers acknowledge that comparing these countries is difficult because of different norms, cultures, and relationships between government and citizens.
The study concluded that the benefits of the containment measures do not outweigh their drawbacks. “The data cannot completely rule out the possibility of some benefits, but even if there are, these benefits cannot outweigh the many disadvantages of these aggressive measures,” the researchers concluded. Similar reductions in cases can be achieved with less restrictive measures.” In fact, they argue that confinement has the opposite effect by encouraging contact in confined spaces.
Approach in Sweden
If we look closely at the measures implemented in Sweden, they are based on the empowerment of the population, which is easier to implement because the density and number of inhabitants are lower. For example, almost all secondary schools and universities have closed their classes and operate only through distance learning, although this is not mandatory. A survey by the National Agency for Education showed that two-thirds of secondary schools have opted for distance learning and most high schools have closed. The same is true for telecommuting. Wearing a mask is not mandatory, but is strongly recommended for transportation during rush hour. In addition, as recently as mid-January, Parliament passed a law that allows the government to close certain public places, such as gymnasiums or stores.
This Swedish approach has led the country to show consistent results since the beginning of the crisis, while the US is more on a roller coaster ride.