Countries still face risks as they relax, according to our new risk index

Phase 1 reopening in New York City's subway

Mask and hand sanitiser distribution in New York City in June 2020

Our new Risk of Openness Index based on data from the Oxford’s COVID-19 Government Response Tracker reveals that countries are facing considerable risks as they try to return to ‘pre-COVID’ life.

After introducing measures to limit the spread of the virus in the first half of the year, governments are now balancing their response between aggressive containment measures and relaxing the ‘lockdown’ measures. To help countries understand if it is safe to ‘open up’ or whether they should ‘close down’ in their fight to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, our team has developed the new Risk of Openness Index.

According to the Risk of Openness Index, right now many countries are still facing considerable risks, even as some resist imposing, or re-imposing closure and containment policies. At present, Bulgaria, France, Tunisia, and Haiti stand out as places that have both a high risk of openness and few closure and containment policies.* Other countries with rising levels of risk, such as Spain, the UK, or Australia have maintained or re-introduced restrictions.

Thomas Hale, associate professor at the Blavatnik School and lead for the Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker, said: “As the pandemic evolves and countries have eased their ‘lockdown’ measures, the Risk of Openness Index provides a new tool to assess which countries are facing greater risk and, thus, are not ready to ease restrictions or need to ramp them up.”

The Risk of Openness Index seeks to provide information on the risk that a country faces if the government were to adopt an ‘open’ policy stance – which means no policy measures aimed at containing the virus through reducing physical interaction. The index also makes it possible to see how risk has changed over time, as the pandemic continues to develop.

Risk of openness has also increased recently across much of Europe. Latin American remains the region with the highest average risk of openness, and East Asia the least. In other regions, national positions differ starkly. For example, the risk of openness for the United States in early September is about 70 percent higher than the risk of openness in Canada.

The index combines policy measures tracked by the Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker with epidemiological, testing, and mobility data, and compares these to the recommendations set out by the World Health Organization for the measures that should be put in place before COVID-19 response policies can be safely relaxed.

See the official press release at the link on the right hand side.

* N.B. Israel was initially included in this list of high risk countries, but has been edited out in this news story due to the recent announcement of a 3-week national 'lockdown'. The announcement was made soon after we completed our analysis for the Risk of Openness.