Stay at Home, Protect the National Health Service, Save Lives”: a cost benefit analysis of the lockdown in the United Kingdom

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What is already know about this topic?

  •   COVID-19 is the disease associated with the 2019 novel coronavirus Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2). The pandemic related to this virus has transformed life for billions of people across the globe.

  •   Estimates made in March 2020 put the likely level of UK deaths if there was no change in behaviour at 500,000. Based on that, and other, assessments the UK government followed the example of several other European countries in introducing severe restrictions on individual movement.

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  •   That slowed the spread of the virus and signalled to people that they needed to quickly change behaviours, but it also generated great costs – both economic and health related.

  •   The precise extent to which the lockdown contributed to a subsequent slowing in the rate of new infections and deaths is not clear.

    What does this article add?

  •   Quantitatively links the economic costs to the health benefits in terms of possible Quality Adjusted Life Years (QALYs) saved

  •   We find that the costs of lockdown in the UK are so high relative to likely benefits that continuing the lockdown for three months was unlikely to be warranted.

  •   One would need to value any possible future QALYs at over £220,000 - over 7 times the NICE guideline value of £30,000 to have made a continuation of the lockdown beyond June warranted.

  •   There is a need to normalise how we view COVID-19 because its costs and risks are comparable to other health problems (such as cancer, heart problems, diabetes) where governments have made resource decisions for decades.

  •   While there are inevitable risks in easing restrictions there are very clear costs in not doing so - a policy of not easing restrictions until the point at which there is virtually no chance of a resurgence in infection rates rising is not a policy in the interests of the population as a whole.

  •   Movement away from blanket restrictions that bring large, lasting and widespread costs and towards measures targeted specifically at groups most at risk is prudent

PROFESSOR DAVID KENNETH MILES (Orcid ID : 0000-0002-6387-0041) DR ADRIAN HEALD (Orcid ID : 0000-0002-9537-4050)