The sudden appearance of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic triggered extreme and open-ended “lockdowns” to manage the disease. Should these drastic interventions be the blueprint for future epidemics? We construct an analytical framework, based on the theory of random matching, which makes explicit how epidemics spread through economic activity. Imposing lockdowns by assumption prevents contagion and reduces healthcare costs, but also disrupts income-generation processes. We characterize how lockdowns impact the contagion process and social welfare. Numerical analysis suggests that protracted, open-ended lockdowns are generally suboptimal, bringing into question the policy responses seen in many countries.
Camera, G., & Gioffre, A. (2021). The economic impact of lockdowns: A theoretical assessment. ESI Working Paper 21-13 . https://digitalcommons.chapman.edu/esi_working_papers/350/