Stringency in Policy Responses to Covid-19 Pandemic and Social Distancing Behavior in Selected Countries

15 Pages Posted: 28 Apr 2020

Date Written: April 20, 2020


This paper investigates the relationships of government’s stringencies in policy measures to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic and “social distancing” behavior across countries. Amid coronavirus (nCovid-19) pandemic, the trending advice for “social distancing” has become one of the most popular yet contentious recommendations in many countries. Studies have shown that cities and states that had early and broad isolation and preventive measures had a 30% to 50% lower outbreak and fatality rates than other cities during the Spanish Flu nearly a century ago. This paper finds that the “social distancing” performance of communities significantly depends on the government’s policy stringency level. The countries with stricter government responses and measures have experienced higher compliance with “social distancing” advice, and hence experienced slower coronavirus growth rates than the countries with softer stringencies. Among the coronavirus hardest-hit countries, a 1.00 unit increase in government’s stringency to respond to the Covid-19 decreases 0.69 unit in people’s workplace mobility. For the same countries, 1.00 unit rise in government’s stringency contributes to 0.31 unit more “stay at home”. Among the studied 32 countries, a 1.00 unit increase in government stringency measure reduces 0.57 unit of workplace mobility among the working people. The countries with 1.00 unit more stringency level contribute to 0.25 unit more “stay-at-home.” This paper uses two sources of data: OxCGRT Stringency Index and Google’s community mobility data. The paper concludes that governments across the countries with more stringent policies to respond to Covid-19 pandemic could give rise to “social distancing” performance, which further contributes to curve the death tolls.

Keywords: Covid-19, Coronavirus, Social distancing, Governments, Stringency index

JEL Classification: I18, I12, I19, I1, I00

Suggested Citation

Hussain, A H M Belayeth, Stringency in Policy Responses to Covid-19 Pandemic and Social Distancing Behavior in Selected Countries (April 20, 2020). Available at SSRN: or

A H M Belayeth Hussain (Contact Author)

Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) ( email )

School of Social Sciences
Building C02
Penang, 11800

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics