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WEDNESDAY July 21, 2021 (HealthDay News)
While much has been said that pandemic lockdowns are a burden on people’s health, new research reveals that the effects of large COVID-19 outbreaks are generally worse.
“Government interventions are unlikely to have been worse than the pandemic itself in most situations,” say the authors of an international study published on July 19 in the BMJ Global Health.
There has been an ongoing debate as to whether the benefits of blockages outweigh their damage to people’s mental and physical health.
But the new study found that closures in Australia and New Zealand – which have averted major epidemics – were not associated with large numbers of deaths.
In contrast, places that had few COVID-19 restrictions – like Brazil, Sweden, Russia, and parts of the United States – had high COVID-19 death rates.
The results provide “strong evidence that the blockages themselves are not sufficient to cause such increases in death,” wrote authors Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz, of the University of Wollongong in Australia; Samir Bhatt, professor at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, and Dr Gavin Yamey, of the Duke Global Health Institute in Durham, North Carolina
They also found no evidence that the closures restricted people’s access to and use of health services, resulting in long-term risks to people’s health.
They suggested that other factors led to reduced use of health services during the pandemic: overburdened health services; redeployment of staff and facilities to manage COVID-19 patients; and people who stay away from hospitals due to fears of coronavirus infection.
While it’s clear that people’s mental health suffered during the pandemic, there is strong evidence that blockages were not associated with an increase in suicide deaths, according to the authors.
They also noted that while missing school affects children’s mental health, so does losing a loved one to COVID-19. In the United States, an estimated 43,000 children have lost a parent to COVID-19, and 2 million have lost at least one grandparent.
The pandemic has had a severe impact on global health programs in low- and middle-income countries, with 80% of HIV programs and 75% of TB programs reporting service disruption. As of May 2020, childhood immunization campaigns had been halted in 68 countries.
These problems are due to many direct and indirect consequences of COVID-19, the authors said, and not just stay-at-home orders.
Overall, it is “often extremely difficult to separate the potential impacts of ‘lockdowns’ from those of the pandemic itself,” the researchers noted in a press release.
They did not conclude that the blockages do no harm. “Often all that can be said is that there is damage associated with both large outbreaks of COVID-19 and government interventions to prevent the disease,” the authors wrote. “Causal relationships are, unfortunately, extremely difficult to disentangle.”
They added: “Governments were not faced with a choice between the harms of the lockdown and the harms of COVID-19, but rather sought to find ways to minimize the impact of both.”
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more information on COVID-19[feminine.
LA SOURCE: BMJ Santé Mondiale, communiqué de presse, 19 juillet 2021
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