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The Astronomical Cost of Lockdown

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For a much more robust assessment of the cost of the lockdown and associated restrictions, we recommend this new report by Tim Knox and Jim McConalogue for Civitas called The Cost of the Cure. The report is worth reading in full, but the short version is that the Government has spent a minimum of £96,000 for each QALY saved, which is over three times the figure that the NHS routinely uses of £30,000 when assessing whether a particular course of action is worthwhile.

Tim Knox has kindly written an 800-word article summarising the report for Lockdown Sceptics that you can read here. He is predictably scathing about the impact assessment published by the Government yesterday. Here is an extract.

If you wanted a chuckle, then imagine you had the job of the unfortunate civil servant who had been given the job of cobbling together this strange hotch-potch of information. The document is clearly a rushed job, published with the political aim of persuading the growing number of Conservative MPs who are sceptical about the need for tighter restrictions that they are, in fact, necessary. (There was once a time, not so long ago, when the Civil Service would have demurred from being involved in such a blatantly political operation.) A futile effort, for no self-respecting MP could be persuaded by such a flimsy document.

Take its estimates of additional deaths from other diseases. Table 9 of the report looks at the effect on morbidity and mortality of certain conditions – alcohol misuse, road injuries, depressive disorders, and the like. But instead of trying to estimate the actual numbers, the report simply uses up and down arrows to describe the general direction of change that social distancing measures might produce. Is that really the best that our Rolls Royce Civil Service can do?

Or take the report’s attempt to take a sectoral approach of the impact of lockdown on the economy. Here again in some cases, all the report does is provide a pre-COVID-19 assessment of Gross Value Added (GVA) output of each sector – it seems to be afraid of making any calculation of the likely impact. If estimates are made, they are drafted as general changes in GDP, not reported as actual costs on deeply impacted industries.

Very much worth reading in full.

By Jonathan Barr



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