Study Suggests Lockdowns Work Better For Rich Countries

Researchers suggest alternative methods.
by Paolo Chua for   |  Apr 20, 2020
Image: Jerome Ascano
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It's been more than a month since President Duterte announced a lockdown in the country, and we're nearing the end of the (much-needed) extension that was given. Now, the question is: What comes next?

The Philippines' short trial of social distancing didn't work out at all. So, it's possible another extension could be put in place. New research reveals that low-income countries should rethink lockdowns. The study comes from Yale University's Zachary Barnett-Howell and Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak, and was published in the Yale Research Initiative on Innovation and Scale.

"By limiting their ability to earn a living, social distancing can lead to an increase in hunger, deprivation, and related mortality and morbidity in poor countries. Flattening the epidemiological curve of COVID-19 to buy time until a vaccine can be developed may not be very useful for poor countries if the timeline for vaccine development is too long for social distancing to be maintained," the study says.


Lockdowns are also counterproductive since workers tend to "reverse-migrate" from urban cities to rural areas—effectively spreading the disease across the nation. Rich nations, on the other hand, can bear the economic costs while saving a large number of lives.

Instead, the researchers point to alternative measures such as more masks and home-made face coverings, targeted social isolation of those at-risk, improved access to clean water, and campaigns on slowing the spread of COVID-19.

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This story originally appeared on

* Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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