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A new analysis of the effects of COVID-19 lockdown in Nigeria shows that the policy did more harm than good, with economic costs alone running into $373.5 billion.

The study was published by the award-winning think tank Copenhagen Consensus Center together with researchers from Nigeria’s premier parliamentary research institution, the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS).

The study calculated the costs and benefits of moderate social distancing policies and school closures for Nigeria.

The study showed that moderate social distancing will overall reduce deaths by 12,000, saving 102,000 people from dying from COVID-19, another 17,500 from better HIV treatment and fewer traffic deaths.

It said that social distancing will also cause an excess 107,000 deaths from malaria, TB and child malnutrition because of less health outreach, movement restrictions and economic disruption.

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However, more life years would be lost than gained, as deaths avoided from COVID-19 are likely to be of older people, whereas deaths from the remaining causes are likely to be of younger people.

The total economic loss for Nigeria from moderate social distancing runs to $373.5 billion, almost equivalent to an entire year of GDP.

Closing schools for nine months would mean that each child receives 9 months less education. This would make each child less productive in their adult years. In total, it is estimated that the social cost of closing schools for Nigeria could be around $5.7 billion – the present value of income loss for more than 25 million children over the next 50 years.

In conclusion, moderate social distancing and school closures can save about 12,000 lives (even though more life years will be lost) at a net cost of $372.5 billion in lower life quality for the future. The cost-benefit analysis shows that the cost vastly outweighs the benefit. Every dollar spent will generate three cents of social benefit.

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Nigeria should continue a series of sensible low-cost social distancing measures like cocooning of elderly, no large gatherings and handwashing.

It should keep health services for tuberculosis, malaria and vaccinations running.

It should provide masks for health personnel. But according to this analysis, Nigeria should not shut down its schools or its economy to tackle corona, because the harms will vastly outweigh the benefits.

Dr. Bjorn Lomborg, President of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, explains why we should be wary of the argument to save lives at any cost:

“Many would say, we should save all lives no matter the cost. But in Nigeria, more than 150,000 people die from tuberculosis each year, almost all of whom could have been saved at surprisingly low cost.

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“Research for Nigeria shows that we could save about 127,000 people from dying from TB every year for about $400 million. For the amount Nigeria would spend on saving one life through corona policies, it can save almost 10,000 lives through smart TB policies”, Dr. Lomborg concluded.

Read the full report here: