Analysis: Government Response Stringency Index

Reading time: 8-10 minutes.

The Government Response Stringency Index is a composite measure based on nine response indicators. It includes shut down all institutions, colleges, schools, coaching centres, and places of work. It has put a restriction on moving traffic, people commuting, and all travel plans are being suspended until further orders of the government. All public transports including buses, trains, and flights are out of service these days. This index has rescaled from zero to 100 where 100 is the strictest response index. This index has come into the discussion because of the prevailing pandemic situation due to COVID-19.

This index simply keeps a track of the number and strictness of policies of the government and it should now not be interpreted as ‘scoring’ the suitability or productiveness of a response of the country. It was launched by Blavatnik School of Government, the University of Oxford on 25th March 2020. It is the first tool invented to track and compare policy responses of governments to tackle the coronavirus outbreak across the world.

The government response tracker records responses of the government systematically and then tell the aggregate scores in the form of a common Stringency Index. It allows users to explore the variation in responses. This information can be important for researchers to help them understand if increasingly strict measures will affect the rate of infection and to identify what causes the government to implement less strict measures.  The Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker collects publicly available information on 11 indicators (S1-11) of government response:

  1. School closure;
  2. Workplace closures;
  3. Public event cancellation;
  4. Public transport closure;
  5. Public information campaigns;
  6. Restriction on internal movement;
  7. International travel controls;
  8. Fiscal measures;
  9. Monetary measures;
  10. Emergency investment in healthcare;
  11. Investment in vaccines

Salient features

a) It is one of the various metrics being utilized by the Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker.

b) It involves a crew of 100 Oxford community members who’ve updated a database of 17 indicators of response of the government.

c) These indicators observe containment regulations such as college and place of business closings, public events, public transport, stay-at-home guidelines.

d) The Stringency Index is a number from 0 to 100 that reflects those indicators. A higher index score indicates a higher level of stringency.                                                                    

e) It provides a picture of that stage at which any country is enforced its strongest measures.                                                                                                                     

f) It shows how strict a country’s measures were, and at what stage of the pandemic spread it enforced these.

India’s position in the index

The Index has found that India indeed had one of the strongest lockdown measures in the world — at a 100 score since March 22.

When compared to other countries with a similar or higher caseload, India called its strict lockdown at a much earlier point on its case and death curves.

It was relaxed slightly on April 20 after the government eased norms for certain workplaces in regions outside the red zones.

These 18 other countries had more than 500 cases when they called their strictest lockdown, while India had 320.

Again, India had only four deaths on March 22, when its score reached 100, while most countries had more deaths at that point (except Switzerland; no deaths).

Spain called for its strictest measures later in its case and death count than all others. Sweden has had the most liberal measures in this set, and Iran the second most liberal.

India scored 0.7 (below Australia, Thailand, Taiwan, and South Korea) because it scored 0 for controlling its cases. The highest scorers on this index, at 0.9, were Iceland, Hong Kong, Croatia, and Trinidad & Tobago.

In the present scenario, India is on the verge of recovering. Because many regions in India are declared as Green Zone. Few regions are declared as orange zone and then there is part of regions that are still under red zones.

But if India continued to observe isolation and quarantine for few more days to come ahead, there is a possibility that many areas which were declared as red zones earlier can be converted to orange zone and ultimately to green zones.

It has been examined by Oxford graphs that the death curve for India has not flattened after strictest measures were enforced.

Critical analysis

The coronavirus spread has made each nation to keep its people under lockdown. With no vehicles people and most of the businesses inoperative it is becoming very difficult for everyone to be under lockdown for months. Many countries took immediate action in response to the coronavirus outbreak. India also took this issue seriously and enforced one of the strongest lockdowns at the initial stages. The University of Oxford has created a stringency index stating India had one of the strongest lockdown measures in the world at a 100 score since March 22.

Some countries witnessed their deaths begin to flatten as they reached their highest stringency such as Italy, Spain and France. The death curve of china plateaued because it adopted stronger measures. If we talk about countries like the US, UK, and India, the Oxfords graph finds that the death curve has not flattened after strictest measures were adopted. In comparison to India with other countries, India witnessed its strict lockdown at a very early stage to avoid death and positive cases count to increase drastically. Other countries like France, Italy, Germany, Canada, etc had more than 500 cases when they observed their strictest lockdown but India had only 320 cases.

It has been observed that India scored full marks for taking composite measures to fight against COVID-19. With only 4 deaths on March 22 to 2896 deaths till today, India has seen a sharp rise in the death cases within a short span. Till now the total number of cases is 91375 out of which 53828 are active cases. The number of recoveries stands to 34644 only.  It has also led to a fall in the economy of our country. Once this situation is over, it is advised to consume Indian brands in terms of clothes and food. We must travel within India to lift our economy because the citizens of our country will only play a major role in lifting the economy.

Conclusion

India’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic is one of the most stringent in the world, according to a tracker that calculates the response of governments across the globe to COVID-19, based on data from 73 countries. India has scored a perfect 100 on the “Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker (OxCGRT)” that aims to track and compare government responses to the coronavirus outbreak worldwide, rigorously and consistently.

The researchers also tested if countries meet 4out of 6 guidelines issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) for relaxing physical distancing measures.

The four of them are:

a) Controlling transmission up to a level that can be managed by the health care system.

b) The healthcare device can detect and isolate all cases (not simply severe ones).

c) Manage switch to and from high-risk transmission zones.

d) Community engagement.

It was observed that no country was able to meet those 4 recommendations. However, 20 countries were close enough to meet those guidelines. India’s score was 0.7 (under Australia, Thailand, Taiwan and South Korea) because it scored 0 for controlling its cases. The highest scores on the index were 0.9 which was scored by Hong Kong, Croatia and Trinidad & Tobago.

As governments persist in replying to COVID-19, it is vital to take a look at what measures are powerful and which are not. OxCGRT seeks to make contributions to this providing a similar degree of the stringency of government responses over time. Variations are found in each of the measures that governments undertake and whilst they adopt them. OxCGRT will maintain to conform over the approaching weeks as and when the pandemic progresses. It is expected that scholars, clinical professionals, policymakers, and involved citizens will make use of OxCGRT statistics to enhance countries’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Author: Isha Agarwal from Amity University, Noida.

Editor: Yashika Gupta from Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Patiala.

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