Coronavirus lockdowns may have cost more lives than they saved, according to a Nobel laureate who accurately predicted when China would peak in the crisis.
Stanford University biophysicist Michael Levitt, a British-American-Israeli who won the 2013 Nobel Prize in chemistry, said that he believed other health precautions, such as enforcing masks, would have been more effective in combatting the pandemic, the Telegraph reported.
“I think lockdown saved no lives. I think it may have cost lives,” Levitt, who is not an epidemiologist, told the publication.
“There is no doubt that you can stop an epidemic with lockdown but it’s a very blunt and very medieval weapon and the epidemic could have been stopped just as effectively with other sensible measures (such as masks and other forms of social distancing),” he added.
Levitt attributed the additional lives lost to other dangers from the fallout of the lockdowns, such as domestic abuse and fewer people seeking health care for ailments other than the virus.
“It will have saved a few road accident lives, things like that, but social damage — domestic abuse, divorces, alcoholism — has been extreme. And then you have those who were not treated for other conditions,” Levitt told the newspaper.
The 73-year-old has no background as an epidemiologist but has analyzed data from 78 nations with more than 50 reported cases of coronavirus, according to the Telegraph.
He said his investigations proved that the virus was never going to grow “exponentially.”
“We should have seen from China that a virus never grows exponentially. From the very first case you see, exponential growth actually slows down very dramatically,” Levitt said.
In the middle of China’s crisis, Levitt made the prediction that the country would peak with around 80,000 cases. He was close: China has reported 84,102 cases as of Tuesday, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.
He said the outbreak in China should’ve informed models for other countries around the globe.
“The problem with epidemiologists is that they feel their job is to frighten people into lockdown, social distancing,” Levitt said, singling out British epidemiologist Professor Neil Ferguson, who he claims over-estimated the potential UK death toll by “10 or 12 times”.
“So you say ‘there’s going to be a million deaths’ and when there are only 25,000 you say ‘it’s good you listened to my advice’. This happened with Ebola and bird flu. It’s just part of the madness,” he said.