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, based upon government-mandated closures, 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 mid-March to mandate important 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 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 – able to fully end closures by late autumn.
Faced with a second wave of the virus in late summer and early autumn, many – including early regional leaders in controlling the virus such as Jordan and Tunisia – have had to reimpose closures. Given the significant economic costs of shuttering their economies, governments have rarely had the political will to reimpose the strictest closures—a trend seen internationally as outbreaks of COVID-19 have reemerged.
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. https://www.bsg.ox.ac.uk/research/research-projects/oxford-covid-19-government-response-tracker.
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.