COVID-19 Lockdown Policies: An Interdisciplinary Review

March, 2021


Lockdown interventions employed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have been evaluated via research at biomedical, economic, psychological, and ethical levels of analysis. The aim of this article is to integrate these perspectives into an interdisciplinary biopsychosocial review. Biomedical evidence from the early months of the pandemic suggests that lockdowns were associated with a reduced viral reproductive rate, but that less restrictive measures also had a similar effect. Lockdowns are associated with reduced mortality in epidemiological modelling studies but not in studies based on empirical data from the Covid-19 pandemic. Psychological research supports the proposition that lengthy lockdowns may exacerbate stressors such as social isolation and unemployment that have been shown to be strong predictors of falling ill if exposed to a respiratory virus. Studies at the economic level of analysis points to the possibility that deaths associated with economic harms or underfunding of other health issues may outweigh the deaths that lockdowns save, and that the extremely high financial cost of lockdowns may have negative implications for overall population health in terms of diminished resources for treating other conditions. Research on ethics in relation to lockdowns points to the inevitability of value judgements in balancing different kinds of harms and benefits than lockdowns cause. Suggestions for future research are provided to promote an increasingly fine-grained and nuanced evaluation of these policies.

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