The COVID-19 Global Response Index
From FP Analytics: A country-by-country assessment of government responses to the pandemic.
Updated: Oct. 13, 2020 | Published: Aug. 5, 2020
As governments around the world continue to grapple with the pandemic, FP Analytics has developed the COVID-19 Global Response Index to track countries’ responses to the novel coronavirus according to key metrics. While country rankings have been published by other organizations and publications, the Index is the first effort to track national leaders’ responses in critical policy areas, including public health directives, financial responses, and fact-based public communications—and is doing so on an ongoing basis. Initially released on August 5th, 2020, the Index was updated with the most recent data on October 1st, capturing some of the impacts of reopening.
FPA’s COVID-19 Global Response Index covers an initial set of 36 countries, including G20 nations as well as several other developing and middle-income countries that experts and epidemiologists have identified as having notable experiences with respect to COVID-19. This group represents an initial set of countries for which there is reasonably robust data availability as well as global geographic distribution and socio-economic and political diversity. While notable gaps in data and reporting remain, this Index endeavors to provide a framework to track government responses across multiple categories and will continue to be refined and expanded as more consistently tracked and disaggregated datasets become available and understanding of the virus can inform further Index weighting.
The Index and associated country profiles are based on global data tracked from December 31, 2019 through September 30, 2020. They are intended to illuminate major actions taken by governments to contain the spread of the virus, identify areas for improvement, and highlight promising practices to inform countries’ ongoing responses. The Index includes policy choices and actions across three (3) categories and produces a composite score that reflects more than containment of the virus but also financial support for domestic economies amid the global economic shock and commitment to fact-based communication among leaders. Data availability and reporting continues to be a challenge; nonetheless, this project seeks to provide a more holistic view of countries’ responses to the pandemic across variables and inclusive of contextual information. FPA’s COVID-19 Global Response Index will be updated periodically, adding to FP’s international COVID-19 coverage, expert dialogues, and special events that are convening pre-eminent leaders in global health, policy, and security from around the world.
The Index was developed with insights from social scientists, public health experts, and leading epidemiologists working at the forefront of the pandemic response, including those from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the University of Oxford, the University of Michigan, the University of Maryland, the University of Massachusetts, UC-Irvine, and UC-Davis’ collaboration with USAID’s Emerging Pandemic Threats project, among others. We are grateful for their contributions.
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New Zealand has had very strong policy, particularly its reliance on science and facts, and its very strong financial response.
Japan has a very strong overall score, driven by its generous financial response and a reliance on facts, although its public health policy is slightly below the median.
Kenya has a very strong overall policy score, consistently scoring well in all areas, particularly its reliance on facts and science on COVID-19.
Australia is a very strong performer, particularly due to a generous financial response by way of income support, but delayed implementation of its policies pulls down its score.
Ghana scores very strongly on the Index, due primarily to its proactive public health policy, strong examples set by leadership, and reliance on facts, but its financial response was relatively weak, with a minimal stimulus and little income support.
Despite having relatively weak pre-pandemic capacity, swift action and prevention-based messaging from the government helped to mitigate spread early on in the crisis; however, Ethiopia faced a notable uptick in cases in August following easing of quarantine restrictions.
India has a relatively strong score in the Index due to its relatively strong financial response and initially strict lockdown, although case numbers continue to rise rapidly.
Senegal’s COVID-19 policy response has been relatively strong across the board, buoyed by a high degree of preparedness and a reliance on facts and science.
Argentina’s relatively strong policy score is mainly due to its strong political response, characterized by clear, fact-based communication and regular press briefings by President Fernandez.
Canada’s relatively strong score, due to a generous financial response and a reliance on fact-based communications, is hurt by a relaxed lockdown, poor contact tracing, and little emergency healthcare spending.
Saudi Arabia has a relatively strong policy response to COVID-19, with a reliance on facts and science, and tight restrictions on public gatherings, although its weak financial response brings its score down.
Germany’s pandemic response has been praised around the world for its rapidly implemented contact tracing strategy and science-based leadership, which contribute to its relatively strong performance in the Index.
Despite strong financial support and a reliance on facts, France’s weak public health directives, particularly its relaxed lockdown, and limited testing keep its score near the median.
Denmark’s relatively strong score can be credited to a capable pre-existing healthcare system and to fiscal responses that prioritize safeguarding employment.
South Africa has had a medium policy response, driven by a vigorous lockdown, although its financial response, particularly its relatively small stimulus package, brings its score down. Despite its high score, its limited testing might explain why it is experiencing a spike in cases.
Indonesia performs relatively strongly in the Index, with consistent scores across all categories.
While hit hard by COVID-19, Italy’s reliance on facts and relatively strong public health policies helped slow the spread and resulted in a relatively strong performance; its relatively limited financial response could have been impacted by its high levels of debt.
Norway scores just above the median, pulled down by its weak public health score, countering its semi-strong financial response and reliance on facts and a free press.
Hungary's overall score has fallen notably since August, with median public health policy and efforts to limit press freedom during the pandemic undermining relatively strong financial policy.
Taiwan has a relatively strong overall policy score, but does not score as highly as expected due to a lack of lockdown, minimal stimulus, and weak support for debt relief. Given data limitations, the score likely underestimates Taiwan’s very strong contact-tracing policy, which is so advanced that it may have diminished the need for other policy responses.
The UK scored in the median for overall policy, due to a relatively strong financial policy, although its weak lockdown hurt its score.
Despite being known for a relatively strong public healthcare system, Sweden has been hit hard with cases; the country’s lack of stay-at-home orders and school closures, limited testing, and few gathering restrictions overshadowed its financial support and a reliance on facts and accountability with an open press.
Clear, fact-based communications and a generous stimulus package have been instrumental factors in Finland's COVID-19 response, with the country managing to keep cases relatively low.
Iceland scores near the median, having strong public communications and testing but moderate interventions otherwise.
Mexico scores around the median, due primarily to its extremely weak financial response and relatively weak public health policy, including very limited testing.
South Korea scores around the median, largely due to its very weak financial policy; its public health score is likely underestimated here, given the data’s limitations to adequately account for the impacts of the country’s advanced contact tracing.
The Netherlands’ overall policy response falls just above the median, with its reliance on facts and science on COVID-19 helping it overcome its small stimulus, minimal debt support, and limited testing.
Brazil scores near the median, primarily due to its poor public health policies, especially its very low levels of testing, coupled with President Bolsonaro’s reliance on misinformation about the virus.
While Belgium has not imposed strict lockdown orders, it has implemented strong testing and contract tracing and generous fiscal supports. Still, its case and death rates are high, with the largest shares of deaths concentrated in elderly care facilities, bringing its score down to around the median. It should be noted that Belgium counts suspected, not just confirmed, COVID-19 cases and deaths, whereas other countries tend to only include confirmed.
Spain has a median score due to reliance on facts and an open media and a generous debt-forbearance policy. However, limited restrictions on public interactions and little stimulus support may be the reason why its cases are once again rising rapidly, bringing its score down.
Switzerland's reliance on facts and an open media drove its score up to the median, helping to counter weak financial support and limited restrictions on social interactions.
China has a weak score, driven by their minimal financial response, and low scores on press freedom and fact-based communications with the public; China’s failure to report testing data and questions over data reliability obscure understanding of its actual COVID-19 status.
The United States’ policy has been relatively weak, given the federal government’s limited use of facts and science, limited emergency healthcare spending, and limited debt relief.
Turkey has relatively weak policy. In addition to limited restrictions on movement, officials have provided little emergency spending, stimulus, or debt relief. They also have limited press freedom and have conducted minimal testing.
Russia has a relatively weak score, with strong public health policy undone by weak financial support, limitations on press freedom, and spread of misinformation about the pandemic.
Iran has an extremly low policy score, due largely to very weak public health policy, driven by a severe lack of testing, and substantial misinformation and press limitations by the Iranian authorities.
Findings from the Index and supplementary research indicate:
Countries Struggling to Manage Spikes in Cases as They Reopen
The initial data on cases and reopening of some economies illustrates a key point: the world will be combatting COVID-19 for some time. As countries continue opening up, the data clearly shows cases rising rapidly. While countries with higher Index scores have generally managed cases more effectively, even they have seen increases in the virus in their borders. This indicates that, until there is a tested vaccine that is accessible to a large share of the world’s population, countries are unlikely to eliminate COVID-19. However, it also shows that those with stronger policies and practices are likely to more effectively minimize the damage.
- Level 1: Officials recommend not leaving the house
- Level 2: Officials issue stay-at-home orders requiring that people not leave the house with exceptions for daily exercise, grocery shopping, and ‘essential’ trips
- Level 3: Officials issue stay-at-home orders requiring that people not leave the house with few exceptions (e.g. people are allowed to leave once a week or only one person can leave at a time); in some cases, monitoring of civilians is enforced
Early and Targeted Policies, Better Outcomes
Countries with higher index scores generally have better in-country status of COVID-19, including lower death and case rates, and positive test results. Preparation, targeted testing, and quick action have had impacts. However, several outliers skew the data. Lack of transparency in reporting likely boosts some countries’ outcomes, while early contact tracing and management—such as in Taiwan and South Korea—aren’t sufficiently captured, due to lack of disaggregated data. Contextual information enriches our understanding of each of these countries and will continue to inform and augment our analysis as additional data becomes available.
OVERALL COVID-19 INDEX SCORE AND IN-COUNTRY COVID-19 STATUS
Circle colors reflect categories on the vertical axis
Crisis Planning Has Enabled Rapid Response
Planning and preparation for health-related crises have enabled rapid response and COVID-19 containment. Notably, lessons learned from H1N1 and Ebola have informed crisis planning and preparedness in Kenya, Ghana, Ethiopia, and Australia.
Clear Policy Directives Matter
Countries’ socio-economic and health security—and investment to those ends—strengthen capacity to respond but are insufficient to manage the crisis. Clear healthcare directives and early, targeted actions seem to have significantly impacted outcomes in many of the highest-scoring countries—notably Ghana, Senegal, Australia, and New Zealand.
PUBLIC HEALTH DIRECTIVES AND IN-COUNTRY COVID-19 STATUS
Circle colors reflect categories on the vertical axis
Early Investment in Emergency Healthcare Cushioned Impact
Early investment and strategic stockpiles of medical supplies and personal protective equipment have helped enable healthcare response, notably in Germany, Japan, Norway, and New Zealand.
Close Coordination with State and Regional Governments Is Key
Close coordination and clear communication among federal, state, and regional entities have been critical to resource allocation and policy directive implementation, notably in Australia, Canada, Germany.
Testing and Contact Tracing Have Been Game Changers
Contact tracing has been key to managing the crisis, notably in Taiwan, Germany, and South Korea, though data regarding the degree of tracing and efficacy is not yet sufficient or differentiated to reflect the importance and positive impact of these measures. In the case of Taiwan, utilization of data and analytics has enabled the country to effectively manage the crisis and avoid strict lockdowns. Widespread availability of testing has enabled countries to quickly identify new outbreak clusters and effectively implement quarantine protocols to prevent spread.
*Given data limitations with respect to contact tracing, Taiwan’s and South Korea’s successes are not adequately captured in the Index, but both are notable leaders in this regard and in overall management of the pandemic. Several countries that employed advanced and aggressive contact tracing or other measures mitigated their need to implement other major COVID-19-specific policies, as seen in their low case rates. The Index adjusts for these outliers. Please refer to the methodology for further detail.
Overall Funding and Mechanism of Financial Support Matters
Financial support to companies—enabling them to keep workers on the payroll—and relatively strong worker wage support have helped to mitigate COVID-19’s economic fallout, notably in Japan, New Zealand, Germany and Australia. These countries took both assertive action on the public health response and also passed considerable economic support to mitigate economic shocks, elevating their scores overall.
FINANCIAL POLICY AND IN-COUNTRY COVID STATUS
Circle colors reflect categories on the vertical axis
Misinformation and Press Limitations Associated with Poor COVID-19-related Outcomes
While not causal, the majority of countries whose leaders have engaged in the spread of misinformation and have limited press freedom with respect to COVID-19 are among those with the highest case rates, notably the U.S., Turkey, Russia, and Iran.
COUNTRIES WITH LOW COMMUNICATION POLICY SCORES AND OVERALL INDEX AND POLICY SUBCATEGORY SCORES
Bar color indicates rank on overall index or within policy subcategories
Challenges with Data from China
While China scores near the top in terms of COVID-19 status, having relatively low case and death rates, as reported by the Central Government. However, China scores near the bottom in the Index in terms of policy. Failure for Chinese authorities to consistently report data on key metrics, such as testing, as compared with other countries, as well as limited transparency on other metrics, results in data gaps contributing to a low overall policy score. The gap is exacerbated by China scoring particularly low on the fact-based communications measure, which includes measuring press limitations on covering the pandemic.
Disproportionate Socio-economic Impacts Warrant Further Study
Countries with significant shares of migrant workers and large informal economies—including India, Brazil, and Kenya—face unique challenges, due to workers’ limited access to healthcare and mechanisms for extending financial support, putting these populations at exceptional risk.
FPA would like to acknowledge those working on the front lines of the pandemic and to thank the public health and policy experts who contributed to this study. We would also like to thank all of those working to systematically track and report COVID-19-related data, including the University of Oxford, the Johns Hopkins University, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and a range of international institutions, such as the IMF, the World Bank, and the United Nations. FPA’s COVID-19 Global Response Index will continue to be updated with the help of these and other globally available databases.
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Statistics and government response factors available on each country profile include:
- Debt to GDP ratio
- Infant mortality rates
- Hospital beds per 1,000 people
- Gini coefficients measuring inequality
- Health access and quality
COVID-19 Public Health Directives:
- Stay-at home orders
- School-closing policy
- Public-gathering restrictions
- Cancellation of public events
- Testing policy and rates per 1,000 people
- Emergency healthcare spending per capita
- Travel restrictions
- Contact tracing
COVID-19 Financial Response:
- Stimulus package as a share of GDP
- Income support
- Instances of misinformation by leadership
- Limitations on press freedom, censorship
Current/Historic In-Country COVID-19 Status:
- Death rates per 1 million
- Case rates per 1 million