Explaining the Homogeneous Diffusion of COVID19 Nonpharmaceutical Interventions Across Heterogeneous Countries
We investigate what drives OECD countries to adopt COVID-19 restrictive policies such as lockdowns and school closures, and find that government policies are strongly driven by the policies initiated in other countries. The level of democracy also matters: While strong democracies are slower to initiate restrictive policies, they are more likely to follow the policies of nearby countries. Following the lead of others rather than making decisions based on the specific situation of the country may have led to countries locking down either too early or too late. Conversely, if countries follow each other when easing restrictive policies or reinitiate such policies, there may be a situation where countries adopt epidemiologically suboptimal policies.
We analyze the adoption of nonpharmaceutical interventions in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries during the early phase of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Given the complexity associated with pandemic decisions, governments are faced with the dilemma of how to act quickly when their core decision-making processes are based on deliberations balancing political considerations. Our findings show that, in times of severe crisis, governments follow the lead of others and base their decisions on what other countries do. Governments in countries with a stronger democratic structure are slower to react in the face of the pandemic but are more sensitive to the influence of other countries. We provide insights for research on international policy diffusion and research on the political consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.