Coronavirus: Critique of Philip Thomas

The Times yesterday reported on a paper by Professor Philip Thomas, Professor of Risk Management at Bristol University.

As reported, Professor Thomas’ key result was that if the coronavirus lockdown in the UK leads to a fall in GDP of more than 6.4%, more years of life will be lost due to recession than will be gained through beating the virus.  In his paper, he expresses it thus:

‘This implies that a recession resulting in a general fall in economic output of 6.4% per
person over a prolonged period would cost more life than would be restored by Option 4.’

‘Option 4’ in his paper is an early 12 month lockdown with widespread vaccination at the end of the lockdown period (using a newly developed vaccine).

The UK government’s strategy is most like Option 4 of his five options, so the strong implication of his conclusion is that the strategy is wrong.

But hang on ….

It’s only wrong if the alternative to Option 4 is a ‘do nothing’ alternative where no-one dies!  But that’s not an option. The alternative to Option 4 is ‘do nothing’ but that would mean nearly 1 million deaths (on Professor Thomas’ figuring).

Which option is going to result in the biggest hit to GDP – ‘Do nothing’ with nearly 1 million deaths or Option 4 with 13,000 deaths?