Alberto Bisin, Andrea Moro, 20 February 2022

The dynamics of a pandemic like Covid-19 depends crucially on various dimensions of heterogeneity in the population, notably on its demographic structure and on its spatial distribution. This column shows that (1) local herd immunities induced by the spatial structure of the population along socio-demographic dimensions substantially affect the effectiveness of various non-pharmaceutical interventions; and that (2) in this context, policies naively ignoring agents’ and firms’ behavioural responses (hence exposed to a Lucas critique argument) have substantial costs in terms of their effectiveness in containing the pandemic.

Yann Algan, Daniel Cohen, Eva Davoine, Martial Foucault, Stefanie Stantcheva, 15 December 2021

During the Covid-19 pandemic, social compliance with non-pharmaceutical interventions has varied within and across nations, and has generally decreased over time. This column uses data from 12 countries between March and December 2020 to show that trust in scientists plays a key role in compliance with and support for non-pharmaceutical interventions and willingness to get vaccinated, while trust in government has a more limited effect. However, when people associate scientists and scientific bodies with government action and political decision-making, it erodes their trust in these scientific institutions.

Patricio Goldstein, Eduardo Levy Yeyati, Luca Sartorio, 30 March 2021

Non-pharmaceutical interventions have been key to containing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. This column examines whether the effectiveness of lockdowns on the virus’s spread and death toll has changed over the past year, using data from 152 countries from the onset of the pandemic through 31 December 2020. Initially, lockdowns are associated with a significant reduction in the spread of the virus and the number of related deaths, but this effect declines over time. Lockdown does not work as a continuous containment policy in the event of a protracted pandemic.

Nirosha Elsem Varghese, Iryna Sabat, Sebastian Neumann-Böhme, Jonas Schreyögg, Tom Stargardt, Aleksandra Torbica, Job van Exel, Pedro Barros, Werner Brouwer, 26 October 2020

The World Health Organization recommended a range of preventative behaviours to protect the public from COVID-19. This column examines how familiar and compliant the adult population of seven European countries were with WHO’s recommendations. Using individual-level data from 7,000 respondents to an online survey conducted in April 2020, the study finds that information from WHO in the context of COVID-19 was well trusted and largely followed, with heterogeneities by recommendation type, country, and individual level characteristics such as region, age, gender, and education. 

Sophia Chen, Deniz Igan, Nicola Pierri, Andrea Presbitero, 11 May 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic and the associated lockdowns have led to unprecedented economic costs around the world. Using high-frequency indicators, this column shows that while COVID-19 is a global shock, European countries and US states with larger outbreaks have suffered significantly larger economic losses. The impact of COVID-19 is mostly captured by changes in people’s observed mobility whereas, so far, there is no robust evidence supporting additional impact from the adoption of non-pharmaceutical interventions, especially in the US. The results indicate a crucial role for communication and trust-building.

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