The huge data set reveals which governments have responded best to the COVID-19 pandemic

The PPI measures the government’s public health responses to COVID-19 at all levels of government around the world. The PPI scale takes into account the extent of COVID-19 policy responses in the following …
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Binghamton, New York – Are our political institutions ready for the task of managing the COVID-19 pandemic and any potential similar future threats? A research team led by faculty at Binghamton University, State University of New York has put together a comprehensive data set to track government public health responses to COVID-19 at the national and subnational levels of government around the world.

The coronavirus pandemic provides a unique opportunity to assess the response of various types of governments to the global crisis, according to Binghamton University political science professor Olga Shvetsova. Other types of catastrophic events, such as wars and national disasters, affect specific countries or regions and do not allow anyone to make global comparisons.

“Events motivate us to discover what has happened and is happening, and to develop new concepts of how the government and politicians work and how they deal with crises,” Shvetsova said of the collaborative laboratory.

As the epidemic spreads during the spring and summer seasons, the Shevtsova Laboratory has compiled a massive database comparing government policies related to the epidemic in 64 countries at national and subnational levels, as part of the COVID-19 Protection Policy Index (PPI) project. The data runs from January to May 2020 and is publicly available for researchers to use, while data is being collected for the period between May and November.

The lab began gathering data on March 12th. The policies pursued by the database fall into multiple categories, including: closure of international and local borders, closures of schools, social gatherings and social restrictions, closures and curfews, medical isolation and quarantine, and restriction of non-essential. Business and services, emergencies, and states that require personal protective equipment.

In addition to political science professors and doctoral students in the department, the project attracted colleagues from all over the country and even from all over the world, including Canada, the United Kingdom and Russia. Undergraduate students have joined this effort as well as research assistants. The lab is collaborative, as members participate in data collection, brainstorming, writing and responding to requests during the peer review process.

“Pandemic policy-making is a truly global experiment in how different types of government operate.” Of the ongoing epidemic research, Shvetsova said, “It’s an examination of how resilient we are, and what are the constitutional sources of that resilience.”

The data has already raised two cards, and more are in the pipeline. “Institutional origins of preventive public health policy responses to COVID-19” will appear in the upcoming issue of the Journal of Political Institutions and Political Economy, and takes a global look at the emergence of policies related to the pandemic. Published in September by Canadian Public Policy / Analyze de politiques, “COVID-19 Policy Response and the Rise of Sub-National Government” compares the emergence of policies in Canada and the United States, at the federal and state / provincial levels.

The lab will continue to collect data on the epidemic as long as possible. The team hopes to have another round of data available, from May through July, by the end of the year. Additional variants as well as more countries will be added to the database.

Currently, the lab is writing and publishing work on incentives and disincentives for responding to the pandemic in democracies, looking at the impact of government structure and political parties and the way governments take responsibility for the health of their populations. Other projects are likely to emerge as the data pile continues.

In the long term, the Coronavirus may provide a yardstick by which to judge the effectiveness of various government methods in responding to crises. This will require reliable statistics gathered by other disciplines: the number of cases and deaths, along with robust mathematical epidemiological models of the factors that determine prevalence and mortality.

These are big questions. “It is unprecedented to be in a moment in time when we can think about hypotheses, make regressions and peek at the answers to these big questions,” Shvetsova said.


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