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Fox News medical contributor Dr. Marc Siegel on Monday applauded the World Health Organization’s declaration that extended lockdowns of communities and economies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic does more harm than good.
Siegel — who has long criticized the lockdowns as inherently bad policy — was reacting to Dr. David Nabarro, the WHO director general’s special envoy, that the organization’s experts “do not advocate lockdowns as the primary means of control of this virus.”
“The only time we believe a lockdown is justified is to buy you time to reorganize, regroup, rebalance your resources, protect your health workers who are exhausted, but by and large, we’d rather not do it,” Nabarro said months after WHO declared a global health emergency Jan. 31 and the virus a pandemic in mid-March.
“I’m very happy today to see Dr. Nabarro come out and say, ‘Look, lockdowns can help a little bit as you regroup, or if your health coworkers are exhausted,'” Siegel told Fox News’ Tucker Carlson. “But the cost is enormous and they should not be a primary strategy.”
Siegel, author of the new book, “COVID: The Politics of Fear and the Power of Science,” said he discussed Nabarro in the tome, noting that in 2005 the WHO special envoy “Sabre-rattled” and said that “bird flu…could kill up to 150 million people.”
“Scared the entire world…fearmongering,” Siegel said, noting further that early on, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was warning countries to remain on lockdown, despite the devastation to their economies and the additional medical harm they caused outside of the viral spread.
Siegel then pivoted to the effects of shutdowns on the U.S. economy, noting that 100,000 restaurants alone have closed and that a large plurality of them cannot continue to be open for much longer without the full reopening of economies and cities.
“That is gonna be a major economic disaster just in terms of restaurants,” Siegel, a practicing internal medicine physician and associate professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center, said.
He went on to recount the experience of a woman who owns a restaurant bar and grill in Texas, noting that she has not been able to reopen fully for months, causing her great economic strain that has led to one suicide attempt and alcoholism.
“We know now, we’re learning, that the fear from COVID, that the damage, the side effects…not from COVID but from the lockdowns, is worse, potentially, than COVID itself,” Siegel said. “I hope we can focus on the lockdown damage, not just on COVID.”
To that point, experts began warning early on that extended lockdowns would have detrimental effects on mental health.
“This is the greatest threat on our mental health in our lifetime. A combustible mix of fear, insecurity, and quarantine,” Dr. Roger McIntyre, professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at the University of Toronto and chief of the Mood Disorders Psychopharmacology Unit at the University Health Network, said in April.
“We’re very concerned about an increase in suicide, depression, stress and alcoholism [but] with the appropriate social, medical, and individual response we can prevent the [mental health] curve,” he added.
Express Scripts, the nation’s top pharmacy benefit management firm, noted in a report the same month, “While COVID-19 makes its monumental mark on the world’s health and economy, new research … reveals it is also making a significant impact on many people’s mental health.”
The company said at the time that prescriptions for anti-depressants were spiking significantly.
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