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New study examines the impact of lockdowns early in the COVID-19 pandemic

A man wears a mask reading "End the lockdown" outside the Palace of Westminster last week in London to protest against the delay of the planned relaxation of lockdown measures.
A man wears a mask reading "End the lockdown" outside the Palace of Westminster last week in London to protest against the delay of the planned relaxation of lockdown measures.

A new study finds lockdowns in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic likely saved lives. But it also finds the economic impact is more “nuanced.”

University of Michigan researchers estimate widespread lockdowns and other mitigation efforts in the first six months of the pandemic saved between 866,350 and 1,711,150 lives in the U.S. But the researchers say the economic downturn, with business closings and the loss of jobs and health care coverage, potentially cost up between 57,922 and 245,055.

“There’s not a one answer that lockdowns were worth it or the lockdowns were not worth it,” said Olga Yakusheva, a health economist. “I don’t want the results of the study to be pulled in either direction. It’s information. It’s room for thought.”

Yakusheva suggests differing perceptions of the lockdowns should not be surprising. She says the group that benefitted and the group that were hurt by the lockdowns are not the same.

For example, the lockdown directly benefitted the elderly and people with health problems who were more likely to catch coronavirus. However younger, healthier people were more likely hurt by the economic downturn.

The study appears in the scientific journal published by the Public Library of Science.