Infographic: The stringency of Middle East and North Africa’s COVID-19 response

L aeroport international de Tunis-Carthage dans la capitale tunisienne le 27 juin 2020, alors que le pays nord-africain rouvre ses frontieres terrestres, maritimes et aeriennes apres une fermeture de quatre mois en raison de la pandemie de coronavirus COVID-19.

Content from the Brookings Doha Center is now archived. In September 2021, after 14 years of impactful partnership, Brookings and the Brookings Doha Center announced that they were ending their affiliation. The Brookings Doha Center is now the Middle East Council on Global Affairs, a separate public policy institution based in Qatar.


This interactive chart compares the stringency or strictness of government public health responses across countries, including government-mandated travel bans, border closures, school and workplace closures, and physical distancing mandates. It draws on the Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker’s Stringency Index. The index places countries on a scale of zero to 100, with the strictest governmental response rating 100, and zero representing a lack of any governmental intervention. However, the index does not reflect the efficacy of these measures, or the extent of popular compliance with them.

Most Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries moved concurrently in March 2020 to mandate strong public health measures, including closing borders, shuttering schools, and implementing physical distancing mandates. Faced with the outbreak in neighboring Iran, Iraq was one of the earliest states in the region to impose stringent closures. Other countries began ratcheting up restrictions shortly thereafter. Jordan imposed the most stringent closures in the region, with the country implementing a full lockdown a week after Iraq did. Economic lockdowns or curfews (general or geographically targeted) were in place in most MENA countries through most of March and April, if not longer.

There is more variety in how and when governments eased public health measures to reopen their economies. Within the Gulf, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) reopened businesses relatively quickly, while requiring stores and restaurants to follow physical distancing rules. Tunisia quickly followed, reopening much of the economy in June, after initially imposing strict closures. Most MENA states incrementally reopened their economies over the summer, with countries like Saudi Arabia and Oman – having maintained strict closures for longer periods – fully ending closures by late autumn 2020.

Since then, many countries in the region have witnessed successful waves of the virus; over 2021, local authorities in nearly every country have responded by seeking to reimplement more stringent closures and physical distancing mandates. The most stringent efforts over 2021 have been in Lebanon, Libya, Iraq, Jordan, and Tunisia, which all struggled with the growth of new cases. Still, given the significant economic costs of shuttering their economies, MENA governments have tried to limit efforts to reimpose the strictest closures, a trend seen internationally as outbreaks of COVID-19 have reemerged. Where authorities have imposed strict closures and curfews, they have sought to limit their duration.

Source: Thomas Hale, Sam Webster, Anna Petherick, Toby Phillips, and Beatriz Kira, “Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker,” Blavatnik School of Government, Oxford University, 2020.

Note: To isolate the stringency line of a specific country, hover your cursor over the country’s label or stringency line.

Paul Dyer is a policy analyst with Brookings Doha Center, and Isaac Schaider and Andrew Letzkus are data analysts with the Brookings Doha Center.