Within the context of SEIR models, we consider a lockdown that is both imposed and lifted at an early stage of an epidemic. We show that, in these models, although such a lockdown may delay deaths, it eventually does not avert a significant number of fatalities. Therefore, in these models, the efficacy of a lockdown cannot be gauged by simply comparing figures for the deaths at the end of the lockdown with the projected figure for deaths by the same date without the lockdown. We provide a simple but robust heuristic argument to explain why this conclusion should generalize to more elaborate compartmental models. We qualitatively discuss some important effects of a lockdown, which go beyond the scope of simple models, but could cause it to increase or decrease an epidemic’s final toll. Given the significance of these effects in India, and the limitations of currently available data, we conclude that simple epidemiological models cannot be used to reliably quantify the impact of the Indian lockdown on fatalities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Collection : COVID-19 SARS-CoV-2 preprints from medRxiv and bioRxiv