Capturing the COVID-19 Crisis through Public Health and Social Measures Data Science

Author: Cindy Cheng, Amélie Desvars-Larrive, Bernhard Ebbinghaus, Thomas Hale, Alexandra Howes, Lukas Lehner , Luca Messerschmidt, Angeliki Nika, Steve Penson, Anna Petherick, Hanmeng Xu, Alexander John Zapf, Yuxi Zhang, Sophia Alison Zweig
Date Published: August 26, 2022

In response to COVID-19, governments worldwide are implementing public health and social measures (PHSM) that substantially impact many areas beyond public health. The new field of PHSM data science collects, structures, and disseminates data on PHSM; here, we report the main achievements, challenges, and focus areas of this novel field of research.

Citation: Cheng, C., Desvars-Larrive, A., Ebbinghaus, B. et al. Capturing the COVID-19 Crisis through Public Health and Social Measures Data Science. Sci Data 9, 520 (2022).

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Mobile Apps Leveraged in the COVID-19 Pandemic in East and South-East Asia: Review and Content Analysis

Author: Lee B, Ibrahim SA, Zhang T
Date Published: Nov 11, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic increased attention to digital tools to support governmental public health policies in East and South-East Asia. Mobile apps related to the COVID-19 pandemic continue to emerge and evolve with a wide variety of characteristics and functions. However, there is a paucity of studies evaluating such apps in this region, with most of the available studies conducted in the early days of the pandemic.

Lee B, Ibrahim SA, Zhang T. Mobile Apps Leveraged in the COVID-19 Pandemic in East and South-East Asia: Review and Content Analysis. JMIR Mhealth Uhealth. 2021 Nov 11;9(11):e32093. doi: 10.2196/32093. PMID: 34748515; PMCID: PMC8589041.

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COVID-19 Government Response Event Dataset (CoronaNet v.1.0)

Author: Cindy Cheng, Joan Barceló, Allison Spencer Hartnett, Robert Kubinec, Luca Messerschmidt
Date Published: June 23, 2020

Governments worldwide have implemented countless policies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We present an initial public release of a large hand-coded dataset of over 12,000 such policy announcements across more than 190 countries. The dataset is updated daily, with a 5-day lag for validity checking. We document policies across numerous dimensions, including the type of policy; national vs. sub-national enforcement; the specific human group and geographic region targeted by the policy; and the time frame within which each policy is implemented. We further analyze the dataset using a Bayesian measurement model which shows the quick acceleration of the adoption of costly policies across countries beginning in mid-March and continuing to the present. We believe that the data will be instrumental for helping policy makers and researchers assess, among other objectives, how effective different policies are in addressing the spread and health outcomes of COVID-19.

Citation: Cheng, Cindy, Joan Barceló, Allison Hartnett, Robert Kubinec, and Luca Messerschmidt. 2020. COVID-19 Government Response Event Dataset (CoronaNet v1.0). Nature Human Behaviour (2020).

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Fear, Partisanship and the Spread of COVID-19 in the United States

Author: Robert Kubinec, Luiz Carvalho, Joan Barceló, Cindy Cheng, Luca Messerschmidt, Derek Duba, Matthew Cottrell
Date Published: April 1, 2020

In this paper we present a Bayesian latent variable model that accounts for the bias in COVID-19 cases and tests and enables direct inferences about the causes of the pandemic. We use this model to analyze the effects of hypothesized factors relating to the disease's spread both directly and as mediated by cell phone mobility and fear of the disease. By decomposing these channels of transmission, we can better understand how an array of policy and demographic factors, including partisanship, affected the spread of COVID-19. We show that both Trump vote share in 2016 and racial justice protests are associated with the spread of COVID-19 through increased mobility and decreased concern over the virus. However, there is a pronounced direct effect of Trump vote share that cannot be explained by conventional factors and suggests that the power law distribution of early COVID-19 spread led to a surprisingly durable association between liberal states and the disease.

Citation: Kubinec, Robert, Luiz Carvalho, Joan Barceló, Cindy Cheng, Luca Messerschmidt, Derek Duba, and Matthew S. Cottrell. 2020. “Fear, Partisanship and the Spread of COVID-19 in the United States.” SocArXiv. April 1. doi:10.31235/

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Policy Responses to the Coronavirus in Germany

Author: Tim Buthe, Luca Messerschmidt, Cindy Cheng
Date Published: May 8, 2020

Faced with major crises, policymakers are at risk of various pathologies, even in the absence of such pathologies, governments, when faced with a major crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic, have strong incentives to try to go it alone at the national level: Both policy implementation and political accountability still mostly take place at the national level. Federal political systems, such as Germany, face similar challenges at the sub-national level. At the same time, Louis Brandeis’ classic depiction of U.S. states as “laboratories of democracy” reminds us that federalism offers opportunities for trying different policy responses and learning from the differing results, especially when federalism has “experimentalist” characteristics to encourage feedback and learning. We provide a brief overview of the public and political discourse in Germany, as well as the German federal and state-level policy responses, during the first months of the pandemic and an early, tentative assessment of commonalities, divergence, pathologies, and learning – as well as broader implications for conflict and cooperation in Europe and beyond.

Citation: Buthe, Tim and Messerschmidt, Luca and Cheng, Cindy, Policy Responses to the Coronavirus in Germany (May 8, 2020). In The World Before and After COVID-19: Intellectual Reflections on Politics, Diplomacy and International Relations, edited by Gian Luca Gardini. Stockholm – Salamanca: European Institute of International Relations, 2020. Available at SSRN:

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Patterns of Policy Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic in Federal vs. Unitary European Democracies

Author: Tim Buthe, Joan Barceló, Cindy Cheng, Paula Ganga, Luca Messerschmidt, Allison Spencer Hartnett, Robert Kubinec
Date Published: September 7, 2020

Do countries with federal political structures develop more or less effective policies compared to those with unitary political structures? We seek to resolve this long-standing theoretical debate by arguing that the extent to which federalist countries reap the benefits or suffer the costs of giving sub-national units greater autonomy depends on whether a given policy is itself more optimally implemented homogenously or heterogeneously across different regions. Using both statistical and qualitative case study methods, we analyse national and sub-national policy responses to COVID-19 in 2 federal (Germany and Switzerland) and 2 unitary countries (France and Italy). We find that overall, federal countries are more likely to possess heterogeneity in their policy responses than unitary countries. We find mixed evidence as to whether federal or unitary countries' policies are more responsive to the severity of the COVID-19 crisis at the sub-national level.

Citation: Buthe, Tim and Barceló, Joan and Cheng, Cindy and Ganga, Paula and Messerschmidt, Luca and Hartnett, Allison Spencer and Kubinec, Robert, Patterns of Policy Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic in Federal vs. Unitary European Democracies (September 7, 2020). Available at SSRN: or

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Windows of Repression: Using COVID-19 Policies against Political Dissidents?

Author: Joan Barceló, Tiril Høye Rahn, Cindy Cheng, Robert Kubinec, Luca Messerschmidt
Date Published: March 6, 2021

What explains the great variation in the adoption, timing, and duration of government policies made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic? In this paper, we explore whether government incentives to repress domestic dissidents influence their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. We argue that containment policies are observationally equivalent to those that abusive governments would use to limit domestic dissent --- i.e., policies that restrict citizen's freedom of movement. This creates an opportunity for abusive governments to engage in repressive behavior without countervailing pressure from citizens and the international community. Following this logic, we expect abusive governments to be more likely to adopt restrictive policies, adopt them earlier in the course of the pandemic, and take longer to relax restrictions. Empirically, we find that governments that have recently engaged in state violence against civilians or abused citizens' human rights were about 10 percent more likely to enact lockdown and curfew policies, and these policies were implemented approximately 48 days earlier in the course of the pandemic and kept in place for approximately 23 more days than less repressive countries. Overall, our results advance our understanding of how the repressiveness of state institutions can shape policy responses to a global health crisis. This paper has been conditionally accepted at the Journal of Peace Research.

Citation: Barceló, Joan, Robert Kubinec, Cindy Cheng, Tiril Høye Rahn, and Luca Messerschmidt. "Windows of repression: Using COVID-19 policies against political dissidents?." Journal of Peace Research 59, no. 1 (2022): 73-89. Available at:

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Statistically Validated Indices for COVID-19 Public Health Policies

Author: Robert Kubinec, Joan Barceló, Rafael Goldszmidt, Vanja Grujic, Timothy Model, Caress Schenk, Cindy Cheng, Thomas Hale, Allison Spencer Hartnett, and Luca Messerschmidt.
Date Published: 2021

In this paper we present six new indices generated from a Bayesian measurement model that allow us to combine policy data from two of the most comprehensive COVID-19 policy datasets, the CoronaNet COVID-19 Government Response Event Dataset and the Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker. By doing so we can validate both independent sources of data and provide more information than either dataset on its own. We estimate these time-varying indices with summary scores for each day from January 1st, 2020 to January 15th, 2021 for over 180 countries and six policy categories: social distancing policies, school-related policies, business-related policies, health monitoring policies, health resources policies and mask-related policies. We also estimate models that predict these indices with a range of social, public health, political and economic covariates. Our results show that business restrictions and social distancing restrictions are strongly associated with reduced general anxiety while school restrictions much less so. Furthermore, school restrictions are associated with higher rates of personal contact with people outside the home, higher levels of income inequality and bureaucratic corruption. Finally, we also find that heads of state who are women are more likely to implement a broad array of pandemic-related restrictions than male leaders.

Kubinec, Robert & Barceló, Joan & Goldszmidt, Rafael & Grujic, Vanja & Model, Timothy & Schenk, Caress & Cheng, Cindy & Hale, Thomas & Hartnett, Allison Spencer & Messerschmidt, Luca, 2021. "Statistically Validated Indices for COVID-19 Public Health Policies," SocArXiv rn9xk, Center for Open Science. Available at:

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Tracking Government Responses To Covid-19: The CoronaNet Research Project

Author: Cindy Cheng, Luca Messerschmidt, Svanhildur Thorvaldsdottir, Clara Albrecht, Christa Hainz, Tanja Stitteneder, Joan Barceló, Vanja Grujicx, Allison Spencer Hartnett, Robert Kubinec, Timothy Model, and Caress Schenk.
Date Published: May 3, 2021

Governments around the world have taken a significant number and variety of actions in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. To understand this flood of government actions, policymakers and researchers need access not only to high-quality, up-to-date data on government responses, but also tools to help them make sense of that data. In a joint initiative, the data collected in CoronaNet are visualized on the ifo Institute’s DICE website. The following article introduces the CoronaNet research project and explains some of the data collected and how they are presented on DICE.

Citation: Cheng, C., Messerschmidt, L., Thorvaldsdottir, S., Albrecht, C., Hainz, C., Stitteneder, T., Barcelo, J., Grujic, V., Hartnett, A. S., Kubinec, R., Model, T., & Schenk, C. (2021). Tracking Government Responses To Covid-19: The CoronaNet Research Project. CESifo Forum, 22(3), 47-50. Available at:

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Women's rights in childbirth during the Covid-19 Pandemic: A Comparison of WHO Guidelines to Policies, Recommendations, and Practices in the US And Germany.

Author: Nikolina Klatt, and Ines Böhret.
Date Published: 2021

Women's rights to respectful care in childbirth are often violated, especially during health emergencies. This article evaluates to which degree policies and recommendations implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic strengthen or violate women's rights in birth in Germany and the US. Therefore, recommendations and policies on a subnational level in Baden-Wuerttemberg and New York State are compared to the recommendations given by the WHO for a safe and positive childbirth experience during the COVID-19 pandemic. This article demonstrates that policies approved in New York have the potential to increase the options for birthing women and thus strengthen their rights. In contrast, little evidence was found for subnational policies in Baden-Wuerttemberg that aimed to safeguard women's rights at birth. This article concludes that women's rights in birth must be supported at the federal, state, and institutional level to ensure respectful and safe birth experiences, even in times of pandemics.

Citation: Klatt N and Böhret I, ‘WOMEN'S RIGHTS IN CHILDBIRTH DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC: A Comparison of WHO Guidelines to Policies, Recommendations, and Practices in the US and Germany’ (2021) 3 Cross-cultural Human Rights Review 1 DOI: Available at:

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Dyadic Analysis of Fragile Middle Eastern States and Humanitarian Implications of Restrictive covid-19 Policies.

Author: Daniel Habib, Naela Elmore, Seth Gulas, Nathan Ruhde, Daniel Mathew, and Nicholas Parente.
Date Published: 2022

The covid-19 pandemic has pressured governments to respond with restrictive and health resource-oriented policies to contain the spread of the virus. The aim of this paper is to assess differential policy implementation due to state fragility with a spatial scope of the Middle Eastern region. The policies implemented by the four strongest and six most fragile Middle Eastern countries were extracted from the CoronaNet Government Response Database and grouped into restrictive and resource-oriented categories. Clustering based on these categories informed dyadic analysis. Drawing from the Oxford Government Response Policy Tracker and covid-19 World Symptom Survey, we found that fragile states tended to be characterized by a higher proportion of restrictive policies, lower government stringency, and lower compliance. The results identify sectors that would benefit most from humanitarian aid and raise the issue of whether restrictions are disproportionately implemented due to covert political agendas or lack of political and economic power.

Citation: Habib, D., Elmore, N., Gulas, S., Ruhde, N., Mathew, D., & Parente, N. (2022). Dyadic Analysis of Fragile Middle Eastern States and Humanitarian Implications of Restrictive covid-19 Policies, Middle East Law and Governance, 14(1), 26-61. Available at: doi:

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