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Hard And Early Lockdown Is Best Strategy, Australian Study Reveals

The Australian economy and lives could have reported drastic numbers if a hard lockdown not been imposed last year, a study shows.

CANBERRA, Australia — Locking down hard and early is the right strategy for dealing with Covid-19 outbreaks in terms of health and jobs, a new Australian study shows.

The research published in the international journal The Public Library of Science (PLOS) One on June 5 found an early eight-week national lockdown in Australia had cost AU$52 billion ($40 billion), or about three percent of Gross Domestic Product.

To determine whether lockdown measures to suppress Covid-19 were justified, the researchers considered three different scenarios, including the welfare costs of Covid-19 patients. To determine the efficiency of the approach, the study measured the number of deaths, hospitalizations, and direct economic costs.

But with no suppression measures, the welfare and hospitalization costs as a percentage of annual Gross Domestic Product would have ranged from 13.1 percent AU$263 billion ($203 billion) to 47.9 percent AU$956 billion ($739 billion).

The study examined three scenarios for Australia’s first wave of suppression of Covid-19 in 2020, including an early and a delayed suppressive strategy.

“The costs of a much-delayed lockdown were many times greater and included a much greater loss of life,” said report co-author, Professor Quentin Grafton from the Australian National University. (Mark Graham/AAP Image)

As well, the country could have faced between 12,500 and 30,000 deaths, instead of just under 1000, the study found.

“The costs of a much-delayed lockdown were many times greater and included a much greater loss of life,” said report co-author, Professor Quentin Grafton from the Australian National University.

“If other high-income countries had imposed effective suppression measures earlier, and especially supervised quarantine for all arrivals, they would have had lower Covid-19 fatalities and economy costs.”

The findings support the current approach of the Victorian government, which extended a one-week lockdown in May by another seven days following a community outbreak of Kappa Covid-19.

Lead author, Professor Tom Kompas at the University of Melbourne, said Victoria’s current snap lockdown was the correct approach.

Staff preparing Covid-19 vaccines in the pharmacy area of the New South Wales Vaccination Centre in Homebush, Sydney, May 10, 2021. (James Gourley/Pool/AAP Image)

“Our work shows that what Victoria is currently doing, with its ‘circuit-breaker’ lockdown is exactly the right thing to do,” Kompas said.

“An uncontrolled spread of Covid, especially with newer, more aggressive strains, would be disastrous for Australia.

“Elimination of community spread in Australia is best for both health and economic outcomes. There is no question about this.”

The authors noted the United Kingdom had lost 128,000 lives to Covid-19 and in 2020 suffered its biggest annual decline (9.9 percent) in Gross Domestic Product in over three centuries.

Australian lockdown measures, which began in March 2020, achieved an extremely large profit compared to alternatives of delayed suppression measures or unrestricted spread of Covid-19.

By comparison, Australia’s Gross Domestic Product is now higher than it was just before the pandemic.

(Edited by Vaibhav Vishwanath Pawar and Nikita Nikhil)