Lockdowns averted 3 million deaths in 11 European nations: study
PARIS, June 8, 2020 (BSS/AFP) – Lockdowns prevented around 3.1
million deaths in 11 European countries, according to a new modelling
study published Monday, as most nations tiptoe out of the strict
measures to halt the spread of the new coronavirus.
Research by Imperial College London, whose scientists are advising
the British government on the virus, found that restrictions such as
stay-at-home orders had worked to bring the epidemic under control.
Using European Centre of Disease Control data on deaths in 11
nations in the period up to May 4, they compared the number of
observed deaths in the countries against those predicted by their
model if no restrictions had been imposed.
They estimated that approximately 3.1 million deaths had been
averted by the policies.
Researchers also calculated that the interventions had caused the
reproduction number — how many people someone with the virus infects
— to drop by an average of 82 percent, to below 1.0.
“Our results show that major non-pharmaceutical interventions, and
lockdown in particular, have had a large effect on reducing
transmission,” the authors said in the study, published in Nature
“Continued intervention should be considered to keep transmission
of SARS-CoV-2 under control.”
The researchers estimated that cumulatively between 12 and 15
million people had been infected in the period — or between 3.2 and 4
percent of the population of the 11 nations.
This fluctuated significantly between countries, with only 710,000
people in Germany thought to have caught the virus, or 0.85 percent of
That compares with Belgium, with the highest infection rate of the
countries at 8 percent, and Spain, where some 5.5 percent of the
population, or 2.6 million people, were estimated to have been
– ‘Large health benefits’ –
The authors said that since interventions such as restrictions on
public events and school closures were imposed in quick succession, it
is difficult to tease out the effect of each one separately.
But they found that lockdown measures taken as a whole did have an
identifiable and “substantial” effect, reducing transmission by an
estimated 81 percent.
The 11 nations were: Germany, France, Italy, Britain, Spain,
Belgium, Austria, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.
The authors acknowledged that one limitation of their model was
that it assumes each measure had the same effect on all countries,
whereas in reality “there was variation in how effective lockdown was
in different countries”.
In a separate study, also published in Nature, researchers from UC
Berkeley used a different method — econometric modelling used to
assess how policies affect economic growth — to evaluate containment
policies in China, South Korea, Italy, Iran, France and the United
Researchers used data on daily infection rates and the timings of
hundreds of localised interventions up until April 6. They then
compared infection growth rates before and after those policies were
By comparing this to a scenario in which no policies had been put
in place, they estimated that the interventions may have prevented or
delayed around 62 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 across the six
They said this corresponded to averting around 530 million total infections.