To curb the outburst of COVID-19 cases and prepare for action plans, various countries imposed lockdowns at partial and comprehensive levels. Although the degree of lockdown measures varied from country to country, economic activity across sectors went into an abrupt decline. Countries resorted to different approaches to minimise the impact and deal with the pandemic. However, there were two primary approaches undertaken by governments across the world. The first approach implies strengthening the healthcare sector by pumping funds and enacting policies in building capacities of hospitals and nursing homes. The second approach implies implementing policies and regimes to reduce the probability of public contracting COVID-19 across different areas. These policies include social distancing measures and lockdowns.
Various studies have been conducted to explore the efficacy of the lockdowns imposed by different countries. For instance, Chaudhry et al (2020) and Alfano and Ercolano (2020) conducted a statistical analysis on COVID-19 data and revealed that lockdowns have far stronger effectiveness on curbing the number of infected people. The reduction in the number of infections is set to continue for 20 days from the day of the beginning of the lockdown indicating targeted and continued effect. Their empirical evidence revealed that number of infections kept on reducing during the first 10 days following lockdowns, and the number of new COVID cases kept on reducing during the first 20 days.
Figueiredo et al (2020) and Lau et al (2020) focused on the impact of COVID-19 on China while assessing the effectiveness of lockdown policies. The results revealed that lockdowns helped curb the spread of the disease but had a negative impact on the economic activity, which is evident from the trade and GDP figures of different countries.
Ajide et al (2020) explored the correlation between lockdown measures and COVID cases across six indicators including residential, workplaces, parks, retail and recreation, grocery and pharmacy shops. The research concluded that stricter lockdown policies were more effective in preventing the growth of the disease. However, there was a trade-off between safeguarding the health and lives of people and minimising the damage to businesses and economic activity.
Various developed and developing countries such as US, UK, France, Germany, China, India, and Russia, among others, had imposed strict and full lockdowns. However, few countries such as Taiwan, Sweden, Vietnam and Philippines, among others, chose to avoid strict lockdowns worrying that the economic costs would be greater than the expected benefits.
Some research focused on the national rather than international level to assess the efficiency of lockdowns. Sardar et al (2020) investigated the Indian market whereas Lau et al (2020) assessed the Chinese market. Both studies utilized the Susceptible, Infectious and Recovered (SIR) models to conduct their econometric analysis. Lau et al (2020) highlighted that the lockdown produced a significant positive impact as new COVID cases stopped growing and existing cases recorded a significant decline. On the other hand, Sardar et al (2020) highlighted that the lockdown had a mixed effect in India as it curbed cases in a few states and showed ineffectiveness in other states.
Cruz and Dias (2020) undertook a qualitative approach and investigated the US, Italy, China and Brazil to evaluate how their economies responded to different types of lockdowns. The research concluded that the effectiveness of lockdown measures was lost due to untimely imposition of the lockdown. As a result, the spread of COVID continued in some countries such as Italy and the US.
Similar approach was undertaken by Piguillem and Shi (2020). They included two vital factors in the SIR model – Virus Testing and Lockdown. The research concluded that the robust virus testing across regions, both urban and rural, was the best option for Governments to curb rising cases. Lockdown was found to be only the second-best option. Kevorkian, Grenet and Gallee (2020) found that no significant empirical evidence showed that lockdown regimes reduced COVID cases.
Vinceti el al (2020) advocated the use of stringent and comprehensive lockdowns compared to less rigid and fragmented lockdowns in effectively curbing COVID cases. The research found that a partial lockdown was ineffective as it could not decrease the movement of people and stop the spread of the COVID. Therefore, they concluded that tighter restriction and lockdown reduced mobility and successfully kept the transmission the disease at a minimum.
Pick (2020) investigated the pattern of COVID spread and lockdown measures in Spain. The research compared the measures undertaken by the Spanish government with the relaxed measures of the Swedish government. The findings revealed that the lockdown had a limited impact on curbing the exposure to COVID in Spain. Despite the strict lockdown, the rate of deaths due to COVID reached an alarming level with exorbitant rates of mortality in residential and nursing homes. The Swedish government followed a relaxed and voluntary lockdown and social distancing regime; however, people played a major role too as they strictly followed the rules despite the regime being relaxed.
Haug et al (2020) highlighted that the majority of the non-pharmaceutical methods such as imposition of travel restrictions including national and district level lockdown and curfew, social distancing and increasing production of PPE Kits and Masks were implemented by countries in the early period of the COVID pandemic. Sjodin et al (2020) highlighted that non-pharmaceutical interventions have been highly effective in containing the true potential of COVID cases across countries. Beaubien (2020) revealed that around 3.1 million people would have died if lockdown restrictions were not kept in place in the European Union. Hslang et al (2020) indicated that lockdowns helped in averting 62 million COVID deaths in China, France, the US, Italy, Iran and outh Korea. They found that the most effective measures were consistent curfews and stringent lockdowns, restricting gathering of people.
Pachetti et al (2020a) highlighted that the strict lockdown regime was able to push the COVID cases down. It was also supported by the robust diagnostic PCR testing of the population. They found a high correlation between the number of tests and the number of fatality cases due to COVID. More active testing helped prevent more deaths by detecting patients that needed treatment.
Different patterns of COVID mutations were associated with declining number of COVID fatalities. For instance, Italy and the US recorded high mutations of COVID genomes. Pachetti et al (2020b) revealed that strict lockdowns had a major role to play in reducing the spread and intensity of COVID mutation. The research assessed 487 genome sequences of SARS-COV-2 across economies such as the US, Sweden, Italy, Germany, Spain and the UK. The trend in fatalities declined for economies with stringent lockdown and strict quarantine.
Although the lockdown had a major impact in reducing COVID outbreak, it was supported by different other factors as well such as robust testing and tracing exercise, development of herd immunity, plasma therapy, isolation and restriction of the older and pre-morbid population, among others. However, the paper has also shown mixed results from different geographic regions.
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