Lockdowns have not made a significant difference to coronavirus death rates during the peak of the pandemic, a study has found.
Large swathes of countries around the world forced people to stay home and businesses to shut up for weeks and months from the start of the year.
But scientists have argued such drastic steps haven’t worked as well as hoped, finding the death toll is “not associated” with whether a country was in lockdown or not.
Rather, the general health, including average age and obesity rates, have played the biggest role in explaining differences in fatalities between countries from the disease, they claim.
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This may go some way to explaining why the US has been hit so hard, with it also having a major problem with obesity, which raised death rates across the world by 12 percent.
The University of Toronto and the University of Texas study found only 33 out of every million people had died due to the virus across 50 of the worst-hit countries up until May 1.
That rate has continued to climb, currently sitting at 80 per million, with the UK seeing 670 deaths per million.
The study did find lockdown measures have successfully prevented health systems being overrun, however.
But not this or border closures made a significant dent in death rates – even if they did lower cases, while aiding recovery rates and lessening the peak of transmission.
While the study, led by Dr Sheila Riazi, found countries with widespread mass testing did not appear to have fewer critical cases or deaths per million.
“Government actions such as border closures, full lockdowns, and a high rate of COVID-19 testing were not associated with statistically significant reductions in the number of critical cases or overall mortality,” the report, published in the Lancet online journal EClinicalMedicine, said.
It went on to say: “Consistent with reported Covid-19 outcome data from Europe, the United States, and China, higher caseloads and overall mortality were associated with comorbidities such as obesity.”
Case loads were found to have increased by 10 percent if a country had a higher population age and places with higher smoking rates had fewer deaths – though it is stated this could be because those nations also generally have younger average ages.
While wealthier nations appeared to have been hit the worst, the researchers found, this is potentially because international travel was more likely early in the pandemic.
However, some experts have dismissed the report as exaggerated with small scale observation models, while others have argued more people would have been saved if lockdowns came earlier.