Table 1

Arguments for the proposition that the “cure is worse than the disease” and the key counter arguments

Health domainArgumentKey counterarguments
Short-term mortalityLockdowns themselves caused an increase in short-term excess mortality (defined as mortality greater than the anticipated modelled number of deaths given existing trends)Countries that imposed several strict lockdowns without experiencing large COVID-19 epidemics (eg, Australia, New Zealand) did not have large numbers of excess deaths. This provides strong evidence that lockdowns themselves are not sufficient to cause surges in deaths
Disruption to health servicesLockdowns are directly responsible for reduced access to and use of healthcare services, which in turn causes harms to health in the long termThe association between large outbreaks of COVID-19, government interventions and reduced use of non-COVID health services is well established. However, this association may be due to healthcare services being redirected to handle COVID-19 cases or other impacts of the pandemic itself rather than by lockdowns. In addition, there is evidence that people fear becoming infected by SARS-CoV-2 in healthcare settings and thus stay home rather than attend health services
Suicide and mental healthLockdowns have driven increases in the suicide rateThere is consistent and robust evidence from many countries that government interventions to control COVID-19 have not been associated with increased deaths from suicide
Global health programmesLockdowns have disrupted services for HIV, TB, malaria and vaccination programmesSuch service disruptions are well documented, but the evidence shows that these have been caused by multiple complex direct and indirect consequences of COVID-19, not just stay-at-home orders