London (CNN)Is the damage caused by the lockdown worse than the virus itself? That's a question raised by some world leaders and commentators who claim that economic and social hardship caused by strict coronavirus restrictions places a heavier burden on society than the death rate caused by the disease.
Critics say lockdowns will be more damaging than the virus. Experts say it's a false choice
These lockdown skeptics point to the tens of millions of US jobs lost in an economic downturn not seen since the Great Depression, the warning by the European Commission of a recession of "historic proportions" and the Bank of England's fear that the British economy is facing its worst crash in three centuries.
The drumbeat of dissent had its moment on the popular British debate show, the BBC's Question Time, when Luke Johnson, a prominent UK businessman with a maverick streak, argued in the May 14 broadcast that the UK had over-reacted to Covid 19. "Imagine the agony of two million more people," he said of the number who could lose their jobs amid a sustained UK lockdown. "How many deaths might flow from that?"
US President Donald Trump made similar claims in late March, telling Fox News: "You're going to lose more people by putting a country into a massive recession or depression."
His Brazilian counterpart Jair Bolsonaro insists that economic stagnation will hurt Brazil more than the virus itself, and on Thursday called the decision made by governors and mayors to close some non-essential sectors of the economy "a terrible disgrace."
These arguments are unconvincing, say economists. To fix the global economy, fix the global pandemic, they add. Survey data shows the US economy was winding down even before US states were mandating stay-at-home policies. Fear of the virus mean people were shopping less, small businesses were closing and cutting employment.