Fresh Takes

In 2019, the World Health Organization Argued Against Lockdowns

Several days ago, the Montreal Economic Institute published a study looking at the flawed projections that were used to justify Canada’s generalized lockdown.

In the study, we mentioned that even the World Health Organization (WHO) had been strongly arguing against lockdowns for flu pandemics as recently as October 2019, specifically stating that the quarantine of exposed individuals was “not recommended in any circumstances.” If exposed individuals don’t require quarantine, how much less sense does it make to quarantine practically the entire population?

Also not recommended in any circumstance in that study for flu pandemics (a pandemic being defined as “a global epidemic caused by a new influenza virus to which there is little or no pre-existing immunity in the human population”) were contact tracing, border closure, and even entry and exit screening of travellers. Even on home quarantine, the strictest elements of Canada’s official COVID-19 response, the WHO wrote, “Home quarantine of exposed individuals to reduce transmission is not recommended because there is no obvious rationale for this measure, and there would be considerable difficulties in implementing it.”

Throughout the report, the WHO emphasizes that the evidence on fighting flu pandemics is fragmentary and incomplete, and much is unknown.

We can only speculate on why the WHO had a dramatically different opinion about quarantines in the case of the COVID-19 coronavirus, endorsing China’s already-enacted quarantines. At a minimum, though, it should highlight how poor the evidence is that quarantines work at all even for individuals exposed to the flu virus, much less for the general population.

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