Complete Corona lockdown in Spain saved 4,000 lives

The effectiveness of measures to contain Covid-19 depends on the time of implementation.

Anti-corona measures such as contact restrictions, partial closures of businesses and schools as well as hygiene regulations save more lives the sooner they are enforced. In Spain, for example, during the first wave of Covid-19 in spring 2020, a strict lockdown policy saved almost 16 percent more people from the deadly consequences of a virus infection. These are the results of calculations in a current SAFE Working Paper by the Leibniz Institute for Financial Research SAFE.

"The effectiveness of the lockdown in Spain was significantly lower than if this measure had been implemented a week earlier," says SAFE Fellow Alexander Ludwig, one of the authors of the SAFE Working Paper. For the research paper, Ludwig and his co-authors developed a new empirical model that compares the course of the pandemic or epidemic and the countermeasures taken by policy makers across different phases and stages in different parts of the country. The researchers' calculations are based on the restrictions imposed by the Spanish government in March 2020, which encouraged the population to stay at home.

Effectiveness of anti-corona measures in regional comparison

As a result, the scientists find that it makes a significant difference how far the epidemic has progressed in different regions of a country when the measure is implemented. "In regions that were in an earlier state of the epidemic at the time of the lockdown, the measure shows greater effectiveness than in regions where the epidemic was already more advanced at the time of the lockdown," says Ludwig.

The authors' aggregated calculations show that slightly more than 4,000 lives were saved by the lockdown. This figure refers to the observation period of the study on May 14, 2020. Up to this date, the number of officially registered corona deaths in Spain amounted to about 27,000. "Without the lockdown, according to our calculations, there would have been about 31,000," the economist clarifies.

These results provide important insights for calculations in macroeconomic models that characterize the trade-off between economic activity and life years saved and model the further course of the epidemic. "In the overall assessment of the economic and social costs, it is an important component of how many years of life can be saved by a lockdown," said Ludwig. In this context, the authors' calculations provide information without explicitly weighing up the costs and benefits. "Our main contribution is to be able to calculate the effects of the lockdown on mortality at all, which is not easy due to the complexity of the temporal dynamics of an epidemic and the fact that this policy measure affected all regions at the same time," Ludwig summarizes.


Download the SAFE Working Paper No. 294

Prof. Dr. Alexander Ludwig