The Irish Lockdown Illusion

Ireland: Daily covid cases

Published: December 19, 2020
Updated: January 15, 2021

In “The Zero-Covid Countries”, it was shown that early and strict border controls have been key to contain the coronavirus, whereas lockdowns have mostly failed. This is true in Europe and the US as well as in Latin America (e.g. Argentina, Peru) and even in Asia (e.g. Indonesia and the Philippines). Absent early border controls, lockdowns have been an epidemiological and economic failure.

Proponents of lockdowns, however, point to the case of Ireland as a seemingly successful example of a lockdown. On October 22, Ireland implemented the first and strictest winter lockdown in Europe (lasting until December 1). On the very same day, covid “cases” began to fall abruptly (see figure above). Proof of the lockdown’s success?

Quite the opposite: because of the delay between infections and testing, the October 22 lockdown could not have resulted in lower cases until October 29, but no such effect is visible in the figure above. Why then did cases drop from October 21/22? Because there was a concurrent 35% drop in daily tests (see next figure).

Ireland: Daily new tests

In fact, a more careful analysis shows that the increase in the growth rate of daily cases was already broken a week before the lockdown, on October 16, and the lockdown itself had no additional impact (see next figure). The turnaround on October 16 was likely due to earlier, softer measures.

Ireland: Weekly change of confirmed cases

Thus, even in Ireland, the full lockdown was largely ineffective, but very costly: the six-week lockdown cost at least 1.5 billion euros and 150,000 jobs. And as the charts above show, daily covid cases in Ireland are already increasing again, at the same rate as in early October.

Update January 15, 2021: By January 2021, Ireland had one of the highest covid case increase and test positivity rates in the world, as the following chart illustrates. On December 30, 2020, Ireland returned to a full national lockdown.

Ireland: Daily confirmed covid cases (OWD)

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