“Hard Lessons”: Scathing New Report Counts the Cost of Extreme COVID-19 Lockdowns

29 September 2022

2.9 MINS

From 1.8 million years of life lost in Australia to almost a trillion dollars of financial costs, the COVID-19 lockdowns over the past three years have cost Australians far more than they have delivered. That’s according to a new research analysis by the Institute of Public Affairs.

We all probably suspected that the costs of COVID-19 lockdowns would be gigantic. However, time and time again, governments assured us that they were doing what was necessary to keep us safe.

A recent report by the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) has called this claim into question by attempting to calculate the”‘economic, social and humanitarian costs of zero-COVID”. The document is entitled Hard Lessons: Reckoning the Economic, Social, and Humanitarian Costs of Zero-COVID and can be found on the IPA’s website.

The study is not the first to do so, however. In September 2021, a critical assessment of COVID data, published in the International Journal of the Economics of Business, concluded that the lockdowns would ultimately cost more lives than they saved.

As the authors of the new IPA report highlight, people often juxtapose “lives” and “the economy” when arguing about the cost of lockdowns. However, the authors point out that this is a false contrast:

“It is important to note that this is not about ‘lives’ vs ‘the economy’. The lives impacted by covid-19 are no more or less valuable than lives harmed by the response to covid-19. This report demonstrates that far more years of life will be lost due to the restrictions than have been saved.

Thus, on a metric focused solely on the number of lives saved/lost, the strict restrictions were a failure. In addition to this, the response to Covid-19 has caused a significant reduction to the net mental wellbeing, economic prosperity, and educational levels of society.”

The research was written by Morgan Begg, the Director of the Legal Rights Program at the Institute of Public Affairs, and Daniel Wild, the Deputy Executive Director at the Institute of Public Affairs, and its findings are scathing.

Lockdowns Do Not Work

The report doesn’t mince words: “Lockdowns did not work,” it states bluntly. The aggressive measures found in Australia were “enabled” by “alarmist modelling” at the start of the pandemic based on a series of faulty assumptions.

“The logic of locking down to save lives is based on the intuitive assumption that restricting the movement of people will reduce the transmission in the community of an infectious disease.

It is simplistic and myopic in that it assumes that totalitarian controls can be exercised over human behaviour without the detrimental costs of the lockdowns outweighing the benefits.”

The research found that the years of life lost through lockdowns dramatically outweighed the number of lives saved by them:

“There is a positive correlation between employment and life expectancy. Unemployment reduces life expectancy due to a number of well-documented causes, including cardiovascular disease; increased illicit substance and alcohol abuse, and suicide.

The modelling in this report shows that the costs of joblessness and not working as a result for (sic) the first nationwide lockdowns in March and April 2020 were 31 times greater than the maximum possible benefits of all lockdowns throughout 2020 and 2021. The nationwide lockdowns imposed in March and April 2020 accounted for a total of over 1.8 million years of life lost due to joblessness alone.”

Staggering Costs

While lives saved or lost is, of course, the most important metric for measuring the effectiveness of the lockdowns, the study also examined the financial costs of the unprecedented restrictions.

It measured “net direct economic cost” and “state and federal government spending” as well as the “aggregated cost of the inflationary effects of zero-covid policies”. In total, the authors estimate a total cost of over $938 billion.

The final measured cost of the lockdowns in the study was their “significant” impact on students. The authors concluded:

“This detriment was most pronounced in Victoria, where students missed more than five terms of in-person schooling, which resulted in Year 9 students falling behind by the equivalent of 12 weeks and 17 weeks of reading and numeracy skills, respectively.”

The report’s findings are certainly not unexpected for many people. Nevertheless, they make for sober reading. And, appropriately, the researchers noted that there “are numerous socio-economic, recreational, lifestyle, and mental health harms as a consequence of lockdown measures which have not yet been fully quantified but will be a significant ongoing cost of zero-covid.”

Millions of Australians are experiencing ongoing harm, setbacks and trauma because of the extended and unnecessary lockdowns governments inflicted upon them.

The cost can never be fully calculated.


Photo by EVG Kowalievska.

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  1. Ian Moncrieff. 29 September 2022 at 8:26 pm - Reply

    Thanks Cody for a well researched report. It is not a surprising finding for those of us who looked outside the false data being spewed out from politicians and media who did not take the time to glean the TRUTH from reliable sources.

  2. Kaylene Housego 30 September 2022 at 1:33 pm - Reply

    It is imperative to be able to get on with the task God has given to each one of us . It minimises the effects of the inevitable psychological harm caused by the Orwellian technique’s implemented by our government and just as you have outlined in your article Cody, this behaviour will not be allowed to remain hidden for much longer .

  3. Kim Beazley 2 October 2022 at 1:41 pm - Reply

    “The cost can never be fully calculated.”

    Well, that actually cuts both ways, as this study undertaken by The Lancet shows:-


    “Based on official reported COVID-19 deaths, we estimated that vaccinations prevented 14·4 million (95% credible interval [Crl] 13·7–15·9) deaths from COVID-19 in 185 countries and territories between Dec 8, 2020, and Dec 8, 2021. This estimate rose to 19·8 million (95% Crl 19·1–20·4) deaths from COVID-19 averted when we used excess deaths as an estimate of the true extent of the pandemic, representing a global reduction of 63% in total deaths (19·8 million of 31·4 million) during the first year of COVID-19 vaccination.”

    Note that this is only the first twelve months of the vaccine, so it doesn’t include the last nine months.

    It also doesn’t even touch on the fact that there would have been, along with that, a far higher rate of infection, with a greater proportion of those being more serious, with many times more in hospital & ICU, straining the health system beyond breaking point.

    And what of the exponential effect on the workforce, with mass absenteeism? After all, it was critical in the early parts of this year after restrictions had been lifted due to Omicron not being nearly as severe as the original and Delta strains. What would that have been like over the previous year if there had been no restrictions?

    Then what of the huge increase in the number of “Long COVID” cases, with so many people suffering from damage to a number of major organs, possibly permanently and from life altering to life shortening, with yet more strain on the health system, extended periods off work, etc.?

    And wouldn’t that scenario also have a negative effect on mental health?

    Add all those and more and the total would dwarf those figures in the report cited in the article.

    • Cody Mitchell 5 October 2022 at 8:32 am - Reply

      Hi Kim,

      Thanks for your comment.

      I would just point out that I don’t mention the vaccine in my article. Nor does the IPA study, actually. The research focused on the cost of lockdowns.

      I’m sure many researchers are conducting studies on the ongoing effects of vaccine-related issues (like the ones you highlight), but that was not the subject of this particular paper (or my article).

      • Kim Beazley 6 October 2022 at 10:29 am - Reply

        I know we’ve discussed this in the Facebook comments, but another issue that just struck me is the fact that many hve mentioned side effects of the vaccine, but when we also know that, even without making reference to the vaccines at all, every side effect was also a far more serious symptom of COVID. And as such, due to their severity, and in many cases leading to serious and possibly permanent damage to important organs like the heart, stomach, liver, kidneys and brain, not to mention the lungs, the cost over time is unable to be calculated, yet must be taken into account over against the findings of this study.

        As I recall reading the comment of a man who had permanent heart damage due to COVID when he referred to the fact that when that damage ultimately costs him his life he will not be counted as a COVID death. And thousands of others certainly will be in that position.

        So while I don’t want to sound dismissive of the IPA study, as it surely has its place in the debate, there is always a broader picture, in this case of cost and suffering outside the scope they’ve chosen for theirs.

        • Cody Mitchell 27 October 2022 at 8:58 am - Reply

          Thanks for your thoughts, Kim. You definitely raise a compelling point! Certainly, every study that is conducted necessarily has its limitations and can only be interpreted in the context of the broader body of knowledge.

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