Canadians have been presented with statistics, charts and reporting galore about the ongoing challenges posed by COVID-19. What about the lockdowns though? Are they actually working? And are their benefits outweighing their harms?

It’s a conversation that politicians, health officials and others have done their best to ignore. But anyone who reads a new wide-reaching study by a Canadian economics professor will no longer be able to avert their gaze.

Lockdowns are accomplishing little benefit, but colossal damage. That’s the conclusion of a research paper by Simon Fraser University Economics Professor Douglas W. Allen, who concludes “it is possible that lockdown will go down as one of the greatest peacetime policy failures in Canada’s history.”Professor Allen’s paper is an examination of over 80 research papers from around the world that studied lockdowns. He found that many of them employed false assumptions, greatly overestimated the benefits of lockdowns and underestimated their harms.

Perhaps the greatest error in the reports and modelling, according to Allen, is the assumption that places without lockdowns would involve people taking zero precautions.“Lockdown jurisdictions were not able to prevent non-compliance, and non-lockdown jurisdictions benefited from voluntary changes in behavior that mimicked lockdowns,” Allen observes.

Any Canadian who has snowbird friends reporting back from the front lines in Florida — the first U.S. state to end its lockdown and mask mandate — knows that there are still many people choosing to follow precautions, it’s just that those who don’t are not fined or arrested like they are in many parts of Canada.

Allen breaks down one report that shows “the variation in stay-at-home orders across the U.S. and found that lockdowns had only modest effects on Covid-19 transmission rates.”

Among the 20 studies that did acknowledge the difference between mandatory and voluntary measures, “all of them find that mandated lockdowns have only marginal effects and that voluntary changes in behavior explain large parts of the changes in cases, transmissions, and deaths.”

So not only are the benefits of lockdowns negligible at best, but their harms are overwhelming. Not that Canadian officials bothered to check.

“Over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been no public evidence that either the federal or provincial governments of Canada have considered both the benefit and cost sides of their policy decisions,” the report notes. “To my knowledge, no government has provided any formal cost/benefit analysis of their actions.”

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