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We provide an assessment of the impact of government closure and containment measures on deaths from COVID-19 across sequential waves of the COVID-19 pandemic globally. Daily data was collected on a range of containment and closure policies for 186 countries from January 1, 2020 until March 11th, 2021. These data were combined into an aggregate stringency index (SI) score for each country on each day (range: 0-100). Countries were divided into successive waves via a mathematical algorithm to identify peaks and troughs of disease. Within our period of analysis, 63 countries experienced at least one wave, 40 countries experienced two waves, and 10 countries saw three waves, as defined by our approach. Within each wave, regression was used to assess the relationship between the strength of government stringency and subsequent deaths related to COVID-19 with a number of controls for time and country-specific demographic, health system, and economic characteristics. Across the full period of our analysis and 113 countries, an increase of 10 points on the SI was linked to 6 percentage points (P < 0.001, 95% CI = [5%, 7%]) lower average daily deaths. In the first wave, in countries that ultimately experiences 3 waves of the pandemic to date, ten additional points on the SI resulted in lower average daily deaths by 21 percentage points (P < .001, 95% CI = [8%, 16%]). This effect was sustained in the third wave with reductions in deaths of 28 percentage points (P < .001, 95% CI = [13%, 21%]). Moreover, interaction effects show that government policies were effective in reducing deaths in all waves in all groups of countries. These findings highlight the enduring importance of non-pharmaceutical responses to COVID-19 over time.

Original publication




Journal article


PloS one

Publication Date





Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom.


Humans, Government, Pandemics, COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2