Can Ireland Survive a Six Week Lockdown?

As many nations flirt with the possibility of reintroducing national lockdowns, the Sun reports that Ireland has become the first European nation to return to a nationwide shutdown as the number of COVID-19 cases rocket — in a bid to rescue Christmas.

Ireland’s New Lockdown Restrictions

From Thursday all non-essential retail businesses in Ireland will have to close and bars and restaurants will only be allowed to offer takeaway or delivery.

Irish Taoiseach Micheál Martin urged people to support the measures in a last-minute attempt to save Christmas and ensure that retailers could look forward to a ‘bumper’ December.

Other measures being implemented include people having to stay within three miles from home.

Less severe measures include:

  • Schools being allowed to remain open, and elite sports like horse racing and Gaelic football will continue.
  • The building industry will not be halted by the lockdown and people will be able to meet one other household outdoors.
  • Funerals services will be allowed to admit a maximum of 10 people and weddings will continue to admit 25 guests.
  • Citizens will be encouraged to work from home unless they are essential workers.

The Irish Government is Pursuing Draconian Measures

The Irish Government’s justification for these measures is based on recent data which confirms that infections are exceeding 260 per 100,000 people over the past two weeks, though that had fallen as low as three per 100,000 in July.

The number of Irish citizens who have died as a result of the coronavirus has reached 1,865 so far. Since the coronavirus crisis began, Ireland’s total confirmed cases have so far reached 50,000.

While any number of deaths are regrettable and tragic, it remains questionable as to why Martin has decided to pursue such draconian measures.

Ireland’s Lockdown Modelling was Wrong

According to the Irish Times, COVID-19 modelling suggested that Ireland would have a 50 percent attack rate and a fatality of 2.5 percent in a worst case influenza scenario. This would have resulted in 78,000 hospitalizations and almost 53,000 deaths. Ireland is currently nowhere near 53,000 deaths and it is worth noting that Irish politicians seem to forget that about the economic impact that lockdowns can have.

At this time of writing, there is no data available to explain how many Irish citizens have died as a result of lockdown itself, but The Daily Telegraph suggests that Britain’s lockdown has killed 21,000 people so far, and maybe as many as 200,000. If future figures reveal that Ireland experienced similar numbers as a result of its first lockdown, imagine how many more could die due to a second one.

The Central Statistics Office discovered that 54.1 percent of Irish businesses surveyed had lower than normal turnover for the four weeks ending July 26th. Many business owners also told Sky News that a second lockdown will result in them having to lay off staff.

Unemployment Will Lead to a Surge in Health Conditions

The Mises Institute referred to a 2014 piece in Harvard Public Health magazine, which found that unemployment can increase the odds of new health conditions such as stroke, hypertension and heart disease by 83 percent. Considering 2,427 and 2,260 Irish citizens died of coronary heart disease and heart attack in 2012, Ireland’s two lockdowns may trigger a spike in people suffering from heart conditions as a result of the unemployment caused by such draconian measures. Those 2012 figures are higher than the number of people who have died of COVID-19 in Ireland so far, yet the Irish Government did not shut down its economy back then.

With the possibility of a no-deal Brexit looming round the corner and living standards damaged by the 2008 recession, which resulted in Sinn Fein’s victory earlier this year, it is unlikely that Ireland’s economy can also cope with a second lockdown alongside these other events.

Taoiseach Martin may be doing what he believes is necessary to stop the spread of a virus, but history may find that lockdowns were far worse than COVID-19 itself in years to come, and that we paid an excessive price to curb a pandemic that is far less deadly than previous ones.