Monday, July 13, 2020

Saving lives II

Three months on, and looking at the state of the world - 13 million cases, 560,000 dead, and both rising - it is clear that New Zealand's lockdown saved lives. But it didn't just save us from the pandemic and prevent future deaths - it also significantly reduced our background death rate and saved over 500 lives:

Health experts have been surprised by a lower number of deaths throughout the country over the lockdown period.

During alert levels 3 and 4, public health experts found 548 fewer people died compared to the same period last year.

Otago University epidemiologists discovered the number of deaths dropped most noticeably near the end of level 4.

Cause-of-death data isn't available yet, but there are a few obvious ones: fewer respiratory illnesses reducing the background death rate from flu, less air pollution, and fewer road deaths. The scary thing is that some of these benefits can be captured without locking down the entire economy. If people were able to stay home when sick rather than being forced to go to work, we'd have less respiratory illness and fewer dead grandparents. If we used electric cars and public transport more, we'd have less air pollution. There are policy changes we can make today to bring about those outcomes. And we should do it. Saving our lives is worth it.