I understand "than exists as a result of lockdowns" as "than (the current damage to the economy that) exists as a result of lockdowns". Am I on the right track?

When and how a country should ease restrictions are the common challenges that governments worldwide now face as they seek to balance various health, social, and economic concerns. WHO has warned that a premature lifting of lockdowns could spark a resurgence of infections and cause even more severe, longer-term damage to the economy than exists as a result of lockdowns.4 Rawaf and colleagues5 have outlined four public-health principles that should be considered in each country's exit strategy: infection status, community acceptance, public-health capacity, and health-system capacity.

Source: The Lancet


than is a comparator. A is larger than B. In your quotation, the comparison is made by ellipsis. In full form it would read:

... even more severe, longer-term damage to the economy than {damage that} exists as a result of lockdowns

You are therefore correct.

Ellipsis = the omission of one or more words that are obviously understood but that must be supplied to make a construction grammatically complete

Merriam Webster

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