Issues & Insights
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The Coronavirus Lockdown: Saving Adults But Killing Children

The coronavirus has almost entirely spared children. The same can’t be said of the global lockdown. In fact, by trying to save the lives of those at high risk of COVID-19, countries around the world are condemning hundreds of thousands of children to death. Has anyone bothered to factor this in when deciding when to reopen the economy?

One thing that has become abundantly clear since the virus emerged is that it targets older and sicker people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that of those with confirmed cases by mid-March, only 5% were younger than 19, while 62% were over 55. Of those who ended up in the hospital, fewer than 1% were under 19, and none of these young people were admitted to intensive care units.

But a little-noticed United Nations report out last week found that the massive disruptions and global recession caused by the shutdowns will disproportionately harm children. It says that 60% of children worldwide are in countries under partial or full lockdown orders.

Based on current estimates of the economic damage caused by the shutdowns, the International Monetary Fund figures a 3% decline in global GDP.

“Hundreds of thousands of additional child deaths could occur in 2020,’” which “would effectively reverse 2 to 3 years of progress in reducing infant mortality in a single year.”

And this is likely a low-ball estimate because it counts only the direct impact of a worldwide recession, not the impact shutdowns are having on access to health care, vaccines, prenatal care, food and nutrition, or mental health care.

The U.N. report notes, for example, that polio vaccination campaigns have been suspended. The crippling childhood disease has not been eradicated from Afghanistan and Pakistan, and there have been outbreaks in Africa, East Asia and the Pacific.

Measles immunization campaigns have been suspended in at least 23 countries that had targeted more than 78 million children, the report says, which will lead to more measles oubreaks. Keep in mind that more than 140,000 people died from measles in 2018, according to the World Health Organization. Most of them were under age 5.

This happened before when health experts ordered draconian measures to stem an Ebola outbreak in Liberia and Sierra Leone because officials claimed it could kill millions of people in those two countries.

As a result, the share of children in Liberia who were fully immunized against measles plunged from 73% before the crisis down to 36% during the outbreak. And measles cases in that country exploded from 12 a month before the epidemic to 60 a month immediately afterward.

(And as Michael Fumento pointed out here recently, the Ebola scare was wildly exaggerated, with the actual number of Ebola deaths totaling fewer than 8,000.)

Then there’s the fact that 368 million children across 143 countries rely on school lunches as a source of nutrition. “Hastily implemented lockdown measures risk disrupting food supply chains and local food markets,” the U.N. report explained, which “pose potentially grave consequences for food security.”

Children could also be at increased risk of water-borne disease if water, sanitation and hygiene services are disrupted, the U.N. says.

As the report grimly sums it up: “Mitigation measures … may inadvertently do more harm than good.”

Yet these second-order effects from the draconian coronavirus shutdowns never get discussed. Instead, the focus is entirely on daily death counts, calls for more aggressive lockdowns, and warnings that reopening the economy “too soon” could cause COVID-19 cases to climb again.

Perhaps public health officials should have spent as much time warning about the deadly impact shutdowns would have on children as they did spreading fear about the supposed lethality of the virus.

– Written by the I & I Editorial Board.

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The Issues and Insights Editorial Board has decades of experience in journalism, commentary and public policy.


  • They always eventually trot out the women and children to make their case when their overflowing pocketbooks start to thin. The globalist elites who control these pompous organizations are no different this time.

  • Our response to this is like what they did to George Washington to save his life. They used blood-letting to the point they killed him. Sometimes, people can’t see the forest for the trees.

  • Lower the curve made some sense when it was pushed early, but the peak has been lowered and hospitals are nowhere near capacity. There are shortages of some things, but that seems mostly driven by hoarding. What’s the point of further shutdowns? Do you have any proof or studies justifying a continuation? Approved vaccines and treatments too far down the road to hope for. At this point, those who can are cocooned. Those in assisted living facilities and care environments are most at risk as the care providers have to come and go. Shouldn’t we be protecting those in assisted living as much as possible and let the rest of us go about our lives? The only way past at this point is herd immunity so shouldn’t we just get on with it?

    • 40% of our hospital staff has now been furloughed. I was just shaking my head at that. The overpanic has caused us to layoff our hospital workers? I just couldn’t wrap my mind around that one.

  • I am very disappointed that you would use any United Nations product as an authoritative source.

  • “One thing that has become abundantly clear since the virus emerged is that it targets older and sicker people.” Not sure of that statement. Given the still-limited amount of antibody testing that has been done, I would say that the older and sicker people are more likely to experience a more severe case of COVID19 if they acquire the Coronavirus and much more likely to die from it.

    • Greg, are you familiar with comorbidity? One of the reasons the virus is so deadly to older people is because they have other life-threatening issues.
      Take a look at the stats, and you will see that deaths around the world fit the profile of older, unhealthy people.
      Dr. Katz, epidemiologist, of the Stanford sample of over 3,000 people in San Mateo county showed that scores of people have had the virus without even knowing it. Numbers much higher than any model has shown.
      Dr. Katz also said: One of the reasons CV has hit some people so hard is because they so neglected their own personal health.”
      He also said: “If all you do is flatten the curve, you don’t save lives, you just make the deaths come later.”
      Check out the term “herd immunity.”

  • The lockdowns are currently being promoted and defended by the Left. They will hear nothing against them — they’ll call you a murderer for daring. The Left has a long history of refusing to acknowledge even the possibility of secondary consequences. They often seem to act as if, as Wendell Phillips once quipped, “Congress was the law of gravitation, and kept the planets their places.”

    • they’ll call you a murderer for daring.
      to disagree with any jot or tittle of their feeeeeeeeeeeelings

  • In the first world, the virus is causing a massive *drop* in youth mortality, mostly because car accidents are way down.

  • Apparently the authors do not know how to do the math on a disease that has a 10-12% mortality rate. Lockdown is supposed to reduce the infection rate until a vaccine is available.

    • Your decimal point is in the wrong place. It’s 0.10 or 0.12 % mortality. About the same as the flu. That’s what honest experts now are saying the true mortality is when you factor in a more accurate denominator.

    • Err, no. The disease does NOT have a “mortality rate” of anywhere near 10%. The Stamford study (and others)puts it near 0.1%.

  • The tribe is fine with this. After all, they LOVE their baby butchers!!!

  • Great argument for reopening the economies of Afghanistan and Pakistan – I can’t speak for the rest of the first world but in America children can still receive vaccinations and still have access to water, sanitation and hygiene services.

  • Golly, I never thought I’d see conservatives calling for more people to pay attention to a UN report, calling for wider vaccination and protecting school lunch programs. We live in interesting times!

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