The lockdown in the United Kingdom came into effect on 23 March. New research published today suggests a framework for assessing when it should be relaxed.
Experts from a number of disciplines including Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, Associate Professor at Oxford Saïd, have come together to suggest a framework to determine when to release the lockdown in the United Kingdom, which was implemented on 23 March in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Their research is based on analysing the impact of many factors such as incomes, unemployment, mental health, air quality and death rates with a view to understanding when the costs of continuing the lockdown exceed the benefits. These factors are brought together using a common currency of their impact on individuals’ wellbeing. Their use of Wellbeing-Years (WELLBYs) builds on the established idea of Quality-Adjusted Life Years (QALYs) already used by organisations like the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE). The advantage of this framework is that it allows politicians to make decisions in a consistent, transparent manner using their own assumptions.
Lord Gus O’Donnell said: ‘This work provides, for the first time, a framework for bringing together the impact of the virus on different aspects of people’s lives. If you look at the government’s five tests that it wants met before lifting restrictions, what they are really all about are the number of deaths and the number of cases. They do not take account of the wider reality of this lockdown on wellbeing, which is what this framework attempts to do.’
Professor Lord Richard Layard said: ‘All policy decisions should be based on a common metric of how they affect the wellbeing of the people. Now is the time to apply this metric to the hardest decision of our times.’
Professor Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, associate of CEP, professor at the Saïd Business School and director of the Wellbeing Research Centre at Oxford University and co-author said: ‘The science of wellbeing has now matured to a point where we have an empirical grip on how all the economic, health, and social changes impact our experience of life. Wellbeing metrics lend themselves naturally as a common currency to bridge these spheres of impact and inform evidence-based policy-making with a focus on advancing the greater good.’
When to release the lockdown? A wellbeing approach to costs and benefits is a report from the CEP Wellbeing Policy Group, LSE, here.
The authors are: Gus O’Donnell, Richard Layard, Andrew Clark, Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, Christian Krekel, Daisy Fancourt, John Helliwell, Nancy Hey and Jeffrey Sachs.