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Government Mandated Lockdowns Do Not Reduce Covid-19 Deaths: Implications for Evaluating the Stringent New Zealand Response



The New Zealand policy response to Coronavirus (Covid-19) was the most stringent in the world during the Level 4 lockdown. At least ten billion New Zealand dollars of output (around 3.3% of GDP) were lost then, compared to staying at Level 2. For lockdown to be optimal requires large health benefits to offset these output losses. Forecast deaths from epidemiological models are not valid counterfactuals, due to poor identification. Instead, I use empirical data, based on variation amongst United States counties, over one-fifth of which just had social distancing rather than lockdown. Political drivers of lockdown provide identification. Lockdowns do not reduce Covid-19 deaths. This pattern is visible on each date that key lockdown decisions were made in New Zealand. The ineffectiveness of lockdowns implies New Zealand suffered large economic costs for little benefit in terms of lives saved.

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  • John Gibson, 2020. "Government Mandated Lockdowns Do Not Reduce Covid-19 Deaths: Implications for Evaluating the Stringent New Zealand Response," Working Papers in Economics 20/06, University of Waikato.
  • Handle: RePEc:wai:econwp:20/06

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gibson, John & Datt, Gaurav & Murgai, Rinku & Ravallion, Martin, 2017. "For India’s Rural Poor, Growing Towns Matter More Than Growing Cities," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 98(C), pages 413-429.
    2. Kees Jan Van Garderen & Chandra Shah, 2002. "Exact interpretation of dummy variables in semilogarithmic equations," Econometrics Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 5(1), pages 149-159, June.
    3. Homburg Stefan, 2020. "Effectiveness of Corona Lockdowns: Evidence for a Number of Countries," The Economists' Voice, De Gruyter, vol. 17(1), pages 1-06, December.
    4. Korolev, Ivan, 2021. "Identification and estimation of the SEIRD epidemic model for COVID-19," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 220(1), pages 63-85.
    5. John Gibson & Bonggeun Kim & Susan Olivia, 2014. "Cluster-Corrected Standard Errors with Exact Locations Known: An Example from Rural Indonesia," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 34(3), pages 1857-1863.
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    1. Choices and options, public and private
      by ? in croaking cassandra on 2020-08-20 00:25:00


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    Cited by:

    1. John Gibson, 2022. "Hard, not early: putting the New Zealand Covid-19 response in context," New Zealand Economic Papers, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 56(1), pages 1-8, January.
    2. John Creedy & S. Subramanian, 2023. "Mortality comparisons and age: a new mortality curve," New Zealand Economic Papers, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 57(1), pages 18-30, January.
    3. Richard Gearhart & Lyudmyla Sonchak-Ardan & Nyakundi Michieka, 2022. "The efficiency of COVID cases to COVID policies: a robust conditional approach," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 63(6), pages 2903-2948, December.
    4. Howell, Bronwyn E. & Potgieter, Petrus H., 2022. "Smartphone-Based COVID-19 contact tracing apps – antipodean insights," 31st European Regional ITS Conference, Gothenburg 2022: Reining in Digital Platforms? Challenging monopolies, promoting competition and developing regulatory regimes 265635, International Telecommunications Society (ITS).
    5. Gowokani Chijere Chirwa & Joe Maganga Zonda & Samantha Soyiyo Mosiwa & Jacob Mazalale, 2023. "Effect of government intervention in relation to COVID-19 cases and deaths in Malawi," Palgrave Communications, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 10(1), pages 1-7, December.
    6. Herby, Jonas & Jonung, Lars & Hanke, Steve, 2022. "A Literature Review and Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Lockdowns on Covid-19 Mortality - II," MPRA Paper 113732, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Chakrabarty, Debajyoti & Bhatia, Bhanu & Jayasinghe, Maneka & Low, David, 2023. "Relative deprivation, inequality and the Covid-19 pandemic," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 324(C).
    8. Philip S. Morrison & Stephanié Rossouw & Talita Greyling, 2022. "The impact of exogenous shocks on national wellbeing. New Zealanders’ reaction to COVID-19," Applied Research in Quality of Life, Springer;International Society for Quality-of-Life Studies, vol. 17(3), pages 1787-1812, June.

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    More about this item


    Covid-19; deaths; impact evaluation; lockdown; response stringency; New Zealand;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C21 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Cross-Sectional Models; Spatial Models; Treatment Effect Models
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health

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