Oxford University has launched an online tool for tracking and comparing the policy responses of governments  around the world tackling the coronavirus outbreak.

Developed by Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government, the Oxford Covid-19 Government Response Tracker is available online and currently contains data from 73 countries, including China, South Korea, Italy, UK, Canada and the US.

It is hoped the information can help researchers understand whether increasingly strict measures affect the rate of infection, and identify what causes governments to implement stricter or less strict measures.

The Oxford Covid-19 Government Response Tracker systematically records government responses worldwide and aggregates the scores into an index that allows users to explore the variation in government responses.

This includes publicly available information on 11 indicators (S1-11) of government responses to:

  • School closures
  • Workplace closures
  • Public event cancellation
  • Public transport closures
  • Public information campaigns
  • Restriction on internal movements
  • International travel controls
  • Fiscal measures
  • Monetary measures
  • Emergency investment in healthcare
  • Investment in vaccines

Anna Petherick, departmental lecturer in public policy at the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford, told Digital Health News: “Over time, we hope the tool will be helpful in making sense of which policies are more effective than others in stemming the rise of new cases.

“One area that we’re thinking about behind the scenes is how to combine our data about the public policies that are being put in place around the world, with additional sources of information that indicate the extent to which people are actually abiding by the new policies. This is one area where tech data could prove really useful.”

The launch of Oxford’s tracking tool follows news reported by Digital Health News this week that King’s College London has launched an app allowing people to report symptoms of Covid-19 so that the progression of the virus can be tracked in real time.

NHSX is also reported to be working on an app that will allow people to report symptoms of coronavirus with a view to allowing the health service to track who has been in contact with the virus.

Thomas Hale, associate professor of global public policy at the Blavatnik School of Government and lead for the project, pointed out that the index created by Oxford University “could not tell the full story.”

The University also stressed that the Covid-19 Government Response Stringency Index “should not be interpreted as measuring the appropriateness or effectiveness of a country’s response.”

However, Hale added: “We believe the data we have collected can help decision makers and public health professionals examine the robustness of government responses and provide a first step into understanding exactly what measures have been effective in certain contexts, and why.”