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China’s Lockdowns Are Fueling Record Growth — in Inequality

Luo Meihan wrote . . . . . . . . .

As Shanghai emerged from lockdown in late May, many of the city’s wealthiest residents headed straight for the same store: the Hermès outlet at the exclusive Plaza 66 mall. Long lines formed outside the entrance, as people indulged in their first shopping spree in two months.

Mary Men’s experience was nothing like that.

The 34-year-old spent her first post-lockdown trip in a local supermarket — making some painful choices. For the first time in her life, she found herself studying the price tag of every item before adding it to her basket. She ended up spending just 15 yuan ($2.25) on a box of blueberries, whereas she used to like buying a whole selection of different fruits.

Like much of Shanghai’s middle class, Men struggled financially during the citywide lockdown in April and May. A marketing executive at an import-export firm, her 6,000 yuan after-tax monthly salary already barely covered her mortgage payments and other bills. Then, the shutdown sent food prices skyrocketing — and pushed her into the red.

The experience has forced Men to cut back. She no longer uses her credit card to shop online. Instead, she’s laser-focused on building up her savings, in case the city’s virus controls ramp up again.

“During crunch times, having money in your hands is the most important thing,” says Men. “You had to directly use money from your savings to buy pricey food (during the lockdown).”

Men is far from alone. As China tries to move on from a wave of spring lockdowns, there were hopes that consumers would kick-start the economy by indulging in the kind of “revenge spending” seen at Shanghai’s Hermès store. In reality, the opposite has happened.

Many consumers have emerged from lockdown in a pessimistic mood. Anxious about their personal finances, the precarious state of the economy, and the prospect of further lockdowns, they’re following Men’s example: making deep cuts to their household budgets and saving as much as they can.

That’s because — as has happened elsewhere — China’s lockdowns haven’t affected everyone equally. While wealthy Chinese have ridden out the pandemic with relative ease, a large number of working- and middle-class families have faced job losses and steep drops in income.

A recent survey offers a stark picture of rising inequality. China’s poorest households have seen their wealth decline every quarter since the pandemic began, according to the April report by the Southwestern University of Finance and Economics and Ant Group Research. The country’s wealthiest households, meanwhile, have gotten richer and richer during the crisis.

China’s consumption data reflects this trend. Sales of luxury goods have grown at double-digit levels year-over-year since 2020, according to consultants Bain & Company, putting China on track to become the world’s largest luxury market by 2025.

“The high-income group go for luxury goods partly with the aim of preserving and increasing their assets,” says Ye Min, an executive partner at consultancy PwC in China. “Their consumption is often for the purpose of investment.”

But from a wider perspective, things look very different. During the first five months of 2022, consumers spent more on daily necessities like food and beverages compared with last year, according to official data. But they cut back spending in many other areas, including cosmetics, jewelry, clothing, furniture, cars, and dining out. Total retail sales were down 1.5%.

Consumers’ reluctance to spend is a major headache for Chinese policymakers, threatening to drag down economic growth and fuel unemployment. But it’s also a tough problem to fix — especially as cases of the highly-infectious Omicron subvariant BA.5.2 have emerged in some Chinese cities, bringing the risk of more lockdowns.

Pinching pennies

Mu Cong, a Shanghai-based piano tutor, is one of many middle-class Chinese who have radically altered their spending habits this year.

After he was locked down at home in late March, Mu’s monthly income fell by 70%. Online piano classes were a tough sell, and he barely earned any class fees to supplement his 4,000 yuan basic salary.

“When I had a stable income, I preferred to enjoy myself,” says Mu, who spoke with Sixth Tone using a pseudonym for privacy reasons. “But as I spent more than I earned during the lockdown … I started to feel nervous, and felt the urgency to save more.”

The 22-year-old is now cutting down on non-essentials like coffee, home decorations, and new clothes. When he wants to buy something online, he first adds it to his shopping cart for a while — to allow himself to think twice before hitting buy.

“If you are thinking about whether you need it or not, it’s not essential,” says Mu. “For example, you wouldn’t hesitate to buy toilet paper. I’m giving up things I don’t actually need. It gives me a feeling of control over my life.”

Men, the marketing manager, has embraced a similar austerity drive. In late May, she took a higher-paying job and told herself she should save at least 30% of her salary each month.

“I didn’t worry much about money before,” says Men. “But now that I’m spending the money I have saved, every penny spent is a penny less.”

Adjusting to a new lifestyle hasn’t been easy, Men says. She has halved her living expenses to less than 1,000 yuan per month. She now rarely eats out or orders takeout, buys very little online, and commutes by subway instead of driving to the office.

“When I’m greedy for takeout, I scroll through several online food delivery platforms and look at different options many times, but don’t order anything,” says Men. “It is a bit painful at first to control yourself, and not spend the money you have.”

China’s migrant workers — who represent around one-third of the country’s workforce — have been hit even harder, as many of them fall outside the country’s welfare system.

A survey of migrant worker households by the nonprofit Beijing Social Work Development Center for Facilitators in April found that 73% had experienced salary cuts due to the recent outbreaks. Around 45% said their work had been affected even more than during China’s initial COVID-19 outbreak in 2020.

Li Tao, the founder of the Beijing-based nonprofit that published the survey, says many migrant worker households are having to cut back even on essentials, such as by adding fewer vegetables to their meals.

“They’ve largely run out of savings after the repeated outbreaks of the past two years,” says Li. “Plus, while the majority of respondents were optimistic about the COVID-19 situation in early 2020, now over 70% are anxious that the pandemic will continue to impact their household income.”

An uncertain future

Many middle-class Chinese share these concerns. The widespread expectation of more COVID-19 outbreaks — and lockdown restrictions — in the future is casting a longer shadow over consumer confidence than two years ago.

Mo Na, a self-employed headhunter, says that Shanghai’s monthslong lockdown has taken a heavy toll on her business — and her mental health. She used to spend thousands of yuan a year on cosmetics, but now she has stopped buying them completely.

“Being confined at home for months traumatized me psychologically and made me lose interest in cosmetic products,” says Mo, who also used a pseudonym for privacy reasons. “It’s meaningless consumption. It makes more sense to save money and invest it.”

Fearful of another lockdown, Mo also plans to shut down her business and apply for an in-house human resources job at a larger company. Although the salary would be far lower than what she earned as a headhunter, she feels she needs some stability.

“Since the outbreak, I’ve lacked a sense of security,” she says. “I don’t know if something worse will happen in the future. I don’t have the confidence to spend money — who knows if you’ll be locked up again for a few months?”

Mo is far from alone. Chinese financial authorities are witnessing record surges in household savings, as consumers adopt a defensive crouch.

A June survey of urban Chinese bank depositors by China’s central bank found that people’s confidence in their future earning potential was at its lowest level since early 2020. And a record number of respondents — 58.3% — said they intended to increase their savings, rather than their spending or investments.

The central bank’s financial data shows the same trend. During the first half of the year, China’s household savings rose by 10.3 trillion yuan — also a record — while new household loans fell to a seven-year low.

Gu Yue, a Shanghai-based new media editor, was planning to buy an apartment last year. But she has now ditched the plan, after the lockdown made her fear tying up her money in a mortgage.

“It could easily cost over 1,000 yuan to buy just a few things (during the lockdown) … It was like having your money flushed away every day,” Gu says. “Buying a house is not necessary. Having money in your hands is.”

Fixing the problem

For Chinese policymakers, stimulating sluggish consumer spending is an urgent priority. However, it’s also proving challenging as the country continues to implement tough virus-control measures.

So far, China’s stimulus policies have been relatively restrained. Unlike some major economies, it has avoided giving cash directly to consumers. Instead, it has focused on supporting embattled businesses and boosting the economy through massive investment in infrastructure projects, and hoping this trickles down to the consumption sector.

Some local governments, including the capital Beijing, have issued “consumption vouchers” to residents to fuel spending. But experts say handing out cash subsidies to ordinary consumers — especially those in low-income groups — will have a greater effect.

Economists, however, stress that much will also depend on the government’s COVID-19 policies. Dan Wang, chief economist at Hang Seng Bank (China), says consumption in Shanghai is likely to rebound to similar levels seen in 2021 by the end of the year — as long as the city can avoid further lockdowns.

“The key to ensuring income sources for low-income people is to find a targeted and long-term mechanism to cope with COVID-19 outbreaks,” says Wang. “A citywide lockdown must not happen again.”

“The recovery of the consumption sector depends on how the epidemic evolves … and when residents’ future expectations for job security, income, and the ease of travel improve,” says Tommy Xie, head of Greater China research at OCBC Bank.

Men, the marketing professional, agrees. For now, she feels she has no choice but to save as aggressively as she can. Her employer is already showing signs of financial strain. And she has a mortgage, health care costs, and aging parents to think about.

“I need to give myself some security,” she says. “No one knows what will happen tomorrow. Things can change at any time.”


Source : Sixth Tone

In a Lockdown, Hard Lessons for Shanghai’s Government Reformers

Yu Ping wrote . . . . . . . . .

As Shanghai prepared to enter what was supposed to be a short, targeted lockdown in late March, local officials had reason to feel confident. Over the last decade, the city has heavily invested in modernizing its urban governance structures, reforming its subdistrict systems, strengthening neighborhood committees, and setting up citizen services platforms to identify and respond to problems as they emerge. The city’s ultimate goal — the creation of a diverse network of governing bodies and mechanisms as part of a transition from a government-dominated society to a “small government-big society” model — seemed within reach.

Nearly two months later, the lockdown has revealed cracks in that dream. Residents have clashed with ineffective neighborhood committees; community workers are suffering from heavy workloads and a lack of support; and the city’s hotlines have struggled to respond to a deluge of calls. For all the very real progress made in recent years, the current state of grassroots governance in Shanghai suggests the city is still far from meeting its goals, to say nothing of the needs of its residents.

Shanghai’s urban governance reforms date back to 2014, when the city made grassroots governance a major research priority. The following year, the city published what came to be known as the “1+6” documents, which sought to strengthen the provision of government services by devolving more power to grassroots organizations at the subdistrict and town level. (The “1” refers to a list of governance recommendations published by the municipal Communist Party committee and the city government; the “6” are six supporting documents outlining reforms to subdistrict governance, village and neighborhood committees, grid management systems, the participation of social forces in urban governance, and the role of community workers.)

Prior to the pandemic, these reforms were showing real results. They were also generally popular among the public, especially new, single-window service centers and the 24-hour “12345” public service hotline, which cut down on red tape and gave individuals and enterprises a means of communicating issues to officials. From about 2017, the Shanghai municipal government doubled down on these initiatives, calling on bureaucrats to cultivate a “service provider spirit” and further streamlining official work.

I conducted a survey last year that found satisfaction with the organization of public services had increased by 50% since 2015. Yet these successes masked very real challenges faced by the grassroots bodies now expected to shoulder the burdens of urban governance, challenges that have been exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic.

To start, inertia at the grassroots level and longstanding official preferences for administrative, bureaucratic approaches to governance have slowed the pace of reform. Many officials prefer a traditional, top-down approach to governance and are wary of democratic consultation. As early as 1998, the city’s Wuliqiao subdistrict piloted the now national “three-meeting system,” which sought to include the public in meetings related to decision-making, conflict mediation, and governance evaluation. Yet, most of the grassroots organizations included in the 1+6 reforms still function like quasi-official subcontractors: They undertake administrative tasks assigned by bureaucrats at the subdistrict level, but they lack the initiative to respond to public concerns or make independent decisions.

This can be seen in the uneven performance of neighborhood committees during the lockdown. Although theoretically autonomous organizations, neighborhood committees generally play an invisible role in most residents’ lives. The exception is when they are mobilized by the government to carry out directives, provide services, or, in the case of the lockdown, enforce often harsh “closed management” rules meant to halt the spread of infection.

As a result, residents naturally see neighborhood committees as part of the government. Few recognize the committees as a potential source of support or defender of their rights.

Compounding the problem, the bureaucratic focus on “advanced” governance and scientific work mechanisms has sometimes obscured the importance of human interaction and community building. Since the lockdown started, residents’ perception of their neighborhood committees as either bureaucratic tools or allies has played a significant role in determining communities’ willingness to cooperate with the city’s enforcement measures. Some committee leaders have lived or worked in their neighborhoods for many years. They not only understand the local situation, but also have good personal relationships with residents, making it much easier for them to communicate with and mobilize their communities. Leaders without these ties have had a much tougher time.

The more technical governance models favored by many bureaucrats have also had their weaknesses exposed by the lockdown. As mentioned above, many bureaucrats are uncomfortable with the devolution of power and elevated resources afforded to the grassroots. They feel the same way about digital governance tools. Shanghai has spent heavily on the creation of big data centers and a unified online city management network. This was supposed to improve digital governance and give officials the ability to make decisions based on emerging data trends. But access to this data is controlled by the traditional administrative hierarchy, meaning many grassroots organizations can’t access the data they need, or even update or modify it in real time to reflect changing local conditions.

Underlying these problems is a fundamental contradiction between the notion of grassroots governance as a closed system, in which local resources are used to manage local matters without broader coordination, and the city’s increasingly diffuse social governance model.

The grassroots are not trivial. They are the foundation of public governance. Effective grassroots governance not only requires top-down guidance, but also bottom-up engagement and horizontal collaboration. If Shanghai accepts this and consistenctly practices it in everyday governance, then perhaps the city won’t be thrown into confusion the next time a crisis hits.


Source : Sixth Tone

China COVID Lockdowns Revive the Ghosts of a Planned Economy

Li Yuan wrote . . . . . . . . .

Yang Wenhui should be a proud example of China’s rise from economic rubble to global powerhouse.

Growing up poor, he ate so much cabbage that he did not touch it again for many years. He worked as a farmer and a construction worker before joining the country’s nascent logistics industry. In 2003, he started his own freight logistics company, striking gold as online shopping took off in the 2010s and products moved swiftly between provinces.

Then the omicron variant started spreading in China. In the government’s zealous pursuit of its “zero-COVID” policy, dozens of cities along the 1,300 miles of highway between the capital, Beijing, and the southern province of Guangdong, his main freight route, imposed travel restrictions and lockdowns. Many truckers were grounded. Cargo prices rose 20% in a matter of weeks.

“I’ve been in the logistics business for 28 years,” Yang, 47, said. “But I’ve never seen a mess like this. There were numerous emergencies to deal with.”

He estimates that he lost tens of thousands of dollars in March.

China’s economy is a giant, sophisticated machine that requires numerous parts to work together. Behind its 1.4 billion consumers are 150 million registered businesses that provide jobs, food and everything that keeps the machine humming.

Also read |Explained: Why is China seeing a spike in Covid-19 cases, and should India worry?
Now, in the name of pandemic control, the Chinese government is meddling with the economy in ways that the country has not seen for decades, wreaking havoc on business.

Businesspeople worry that the country is going back to a planned economy, and the great COVID disruptions could last until after a Communist Party congress late this year when China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, is expected to secure a third term. A surge in cases in Beijing is amplifying global fears as well, prompting a sell-off in stocks on concerns that China’s economy could take another hit.

In the past two years, many governments around the world have sought a balance between controlling the pandemic and keeping businesses open. China was largely successful until recently when omicron, a milder, if more infectious, variant, caused a serious outbreak. As much of the world is opening up, the country is doubling down on its zero-COVID policy, making low death and infection rates central to its legitimacy.

Since March, China has reported about half a million COVID infections and 48 deaths through April 22.

Around 344 million people, or a quarter of the country’s population, are under some kind of lockdown, according to investment bank Nomura. The lockdowns have left China’s biggest city, Shanghai, a metropolis of 25 million people, a ghost town; farmers in the northeastern granary cooped up in the spring planting season; and many factories, shops and restaurants across the country suspending their operations.

The stringent measures are exacting a heavy toll on the economy. Nationwide consumption fell 3.5% in March, while spending at restaurants plummeted 16%, according to official data.

“This is not only making it impossible for many private businesses to survive, but also accelerating outbound immigration and quickly dampening willingness to invest,” said Zhiwu Chen, an economist at the University of Hong Kong. “Once people lose confidence in the country’s future, it will be extremely difficult for the economy to recover from the zero-COVID policy’s impact.”

Business owners and managers are complaining that the current disruptions are worse and more widespread than those of early 2020 when logistics, commerce and industrial production in much of the country quickly returned to normal. Back then, the government’s digital surveillance systems to limit the movements of vehicles and people were less extensive.

The business community is waiting nervously to see if the government will apply the Shanghai lockdown model to other cities. The approach has a strong element of a planned economy, in which the government controls business activities, rather than letting the market regulate supply and demand.

During the outbreak, the Shanghai government upended the commercial systems and tried to provide for 25 million people on its own. The results are familiar to Chinese of a certain age: scarcity of supplies and mushrooming of black markets.

Because of COVID restrictions, commercial trucks have a hard time delivering food and household goods to Shanghai. Inside the city, only vehicles with passes are allowed on the road.

On the black market, some operators are willing to pay $2,000 for a day pass. The cost is then priced into the groceries they sell to the residents.

Some neighborhood committees allow only government-organized grocery distributions; others do not allow their residents to purchase diapers, baby formula and toilet paper because they are not considered necessities. Elsewhere, fruit, beer and coffee are considered frivolous items.

Starting in the 1980s, China moved away from its planned economy because it left everyone poor. It did not work in the former Soviet Union nor is it working in North Korea.

John Ji, a real estate developer in Nanjing of Jiangsu province, is anxiously watching the lockdowns in Shanghai and other cities. He believes many people will lose their jobs and have difficulty paying mortgages. When nobody can afford housing, he asked, who will buy his apartments?

Ji also grew up poor. Before he turned 10, his staple was sweet potatoes. He ate meat only a couple of times a year.

“I’m worried whether we’re going back to a planned economy,” he told me. “If the economy keeps slumping, we might become poor again.”


Source : The New York Times

Shanghai Lockdown Brings Back Memories of China’s Past

Wu Peiyue wrote . . . . . . . . .

Since Shanghai got locked down, the local government has taken on the responsibility of uniformly distributing food and necessities. Many people online say it feels like a return to the planned economy era.

So Sixth Tone asked a Shanghai resident who remembers the planned economy.

Born in 1965, Hua, who only gave his surname for privacy reasons, has witnessed China’s transition from a planned economy to an open market.

In 1989, Hua quit a factory job in Shanghai and stepped into the business world. In the 1990s, Hua sold various things in Wuhan, such as engraving machines and jeans, and later worked as a technology transfer agent for a variety of small machinery such as cigarette lighters. He also acted as a salesperson for imported factory machines in central China.

Hua achieved financial freedom in 2001, and became interested in solar-heating technology. He filed several patents. In 2019, Hua became interested in sociology after reading Yuval Noah Harari’s “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.” Recently, alone in his apartment, Hua told Sixth Tone he’s reading “Making Things Work: Solving Complex Problems in a Complex World” by Yaneer Bar-Yam.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.


Pork and rice

In our neighborhood WeChat group, one of the residents complained that the community had only given out pork, and the meat is too fatty.

I felt just the opposite. Pork has always had a strong appeal to me. It was always short during my childhood. When I was growing up, meat was a rare commodity and had to be purchased with a ration ticket. At that time, fatty meat was worth more than lean meat, because we could also render it to make cooking oil, which was also scarce back then.

These days, people who run out of oil at home also have to use the method of rendering lard. It feels like going back in time.

What we are experiencing now definitely cannot be called a “planned” economy… But with scarce supplies and limited variety, our relationship with food has changed. It’s gone from eating whatever comes to mind, to requiring some planning ahead of time.

When I was growing up, my parents were the ones who planned what the family ate. I don’t have many memories of how they planned the food. The time I started to plan for myself was when I went to college in the north. Each student was given a certain amount of ration tickets every month, and 40% of them were for coarse food — cornmeal and millet. As a southerner, I hate coarse food, but if I didn’t eat them, I’d starve. So I forced myself to eat the coarse food by cooking it as porridge for breakfast, so I didn’t have to deal with it the rest of the day.

Now I am doing something similar. I don’t like the noodles our community is giving us, so I eat them for lunch, rather than for dinner.

Community

I grew up in a shipyard’s work unit, where everyone worked for the same factory. At that time, the factory issued ration tickets to families every month based on how many people they had, and some families might exchange some extra rice with their neighbors for eggs.

It was the natural thing to do, to swap goods with each other in an “acquaintance society.” Families were close-knit and everyone knew each other intimately.

Now, I live in a high-rise apartment complex built in 1996. I don’t know any of my neighbors. And I think modern buildings don’t foster an intimate atmosphere.

Last week, I took a whole day to make tofu from soybeans. It was a huge batch, more than I can eat alone. I posted a picture on WeChat, and a friend suggested that I should give some to my neighbors.

I did give it some thought. But I’m feeling a bit sensitive, because my recent attempts to make friends with my neighbor failed. I have a habit of playing badminton. Last week I saw two young people downstairs playing, but not very skillfully. I volunteered to join and helped them to play better. The next day, I brought an outdoor shuttlecock, meaning to give it to them. However, when I stood there, they acted as if they didn’t know me. And the previous time, when the game was over, they neither suggested that we could be WeChat friends, nor took the initiative to ask me to play with them again.

I gave up on giving tofu to my neighbors. I didn’t know which neighbor I should give it to. “If I asked in the WeChat group, and a lot of people wanted it, it would be a very embarrassing decision to make,” I told myself. I just put it all in the fridge.

Group buying is the only group activity I participate in. I force myself to participate, because the food supplies given by the community are totally insufficient. But community group buying only works for those who actively follow the group chat, so if you miss the message, you miss the group buy.

One elderly person in our community called the head of the neighborhood committee, and said he was about to run out of food. The leader said they would report upwards, and also suggested he call 12345.

In the acquaintance society of the past, people would help the old man during the group purchase, not just throw the responsibility of taking care of the old man to the neighborhood committee.

Reform and opening

I lived my young adulthood during the transition from the planned economy to the opening of the market.

Reform and opening up began to take shape in Shanghai in the late 80s. After I graduated from college, I was assigned to work at the Shanghai Machine Tool Factory in 1986. I soon felt that the atmosphere was changing. People around me were getting out of the system and going all over the country to look for business opportunities. Before, it was a crime — “speculation” — to take something from a place where it was abundant to a place where there was scarcity.

In 1989, I took a leave of absence from my job and went to Shenzhen to experience the business atmosphere, and then started to go around the country, trading sand, cement, and rebar, and later trying to sell computers, stereos, and printers in Shanghai.

At that time, each city had its own food specialty, and these things could only be bought when you went to the local area. Each city had its own brand of milk. Beer too. Now, you can buy any local food brand you want online.

During this lockdown, all of a sudden there is less choice of food brands. It does seem like a return to the old days. Shanghai’s local food brands are easier to find in group buying groups. Of course, there are also some food brands that we’ve never seen before. I think these brands are hard to notice in the free market by high-spending Shanghai citizens, with competition from all over the country, and even from imported brands.

I’ve heard that now it’s all companies with good relations with the Shanghai government that are on the guaranteed supply list, and big private companies like JD.com are not on the list, so it leads to very poor transportation.

If we were still in the era of the planned economy, this might not feel so jarring. At that time all the enterprises were all state-owned and it would all be down to the government to coordinate.

But then again, the recent phenomenon is actually quite understandable. China’s economy was slowly opening up into a free market, but it has never been entirely free. Any regional business that wants to enter the market in another area will encounter top-down resistance. Like Wahaha — after it captured almost all of the national market with the strategy of “encircling the city with the countryside,” it still took a long time to enter Shanghai.

In China, the free market has always been carried out in a macro-controlled way by the government. So I think we shouldn’t dichotomize and say that a free economy is better suited to solve the current situation or a planned economy. Rather, we should reorganize the relationship between these two methods and use them in an optimal combination.

Through this time, I’ve realized that lots of us, including myself, our thinking has been stuck in the past, in the ways of industrial mass production — a much more standardized system.

Now it’s the internet era. The complex logistics within the city are built with a lot of reliance on algorithms to distribute things individually. Now this system is not working, so we’re going back to top-down distribution, and supply is inadequate. Now the self-initiated community group buying is supplementing this.

There needs to be a new management solution for this state of abundance. It’s a state of rapid change for everyone. This lockdown of the city is a good test. It forces us to ask how to manage things with a complex system.

We shouldn’t do nothing ourselves and just complain about being managed in a one-size-fits-all manner. We, the citizens and community leaders, should take the initiative to discuss with people close to us and come up with a solution that works for us, but also meets the “dynamic zero-COVID” requirements from the government.


Source : Sixth Tone

Video: A Deserted Shanghai

Study: A Literature Review and Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Lockdowns on COVID-19 Mortality

Jonas Herby, Lars Jonung, and Steve H. Hanke wrote . . . . . . . . .

Abstract

This systematic review and meta-analysis are designed to determine whether there is empirical evidence to support the belief that “lockdowns” reduce COVID-19 mortality. Lockdowns are defined as the imposition of at least one compulsory, non-pharmaceutical intervention (NPI).

NPIs are any government mandate that directly restrict peoples’ possibilities, such as policies that limit internal movement, close schools and businesses, and ban international travel. This study employed a systematic search and screening procedure in which 18,590 studies are identified that could potentially address the belief posed. After three levels of screening, 34 studies ultimately qualified. Of those 34 eligible studies, 24 qualified for inclusion in the meta-analysis.

They were separated into three groups: lockdown stringency index studies, shelter-in-placeorder (SIPO) studies, and specific NPI studies. An analysis of each of these three groups support the conclusion that lockdowns have had little to no effect on COVID-19 mortality. More specifically, stringency index studies find that lockdowns in Europe and the United States only reduced COVID-19 mortality by 0.2% on average. SIPOs were also ineffective, only reducing COVID-19 mortality by 2.9% on average. Specific NPI studies also find no broad-based evidence of noticeable effects on COVID-19 mortality.

While this meta-analysis concludes that lockdowns have had little to no public health effects, they have imposed enormous economic and social costs where they have been adopted. In consequence, lockdown policies are ill-founded and should be rejected as a pandemic policy instrument.


Read the full report . . . . .

Chart: The Lost Months of the Coronavirus Pandemic

Source : Statista