Objective: Since the COVID-19 pandemic, many governments globally have introduced policy measures to contain the spread of the virus. Popular COVID-19 containment measures include lockdowns of various forms (aggregated into government response stringency index [GRSI]) and handwashing (HWF). The effectiveness of these policy measures remains unclear in the academic literature. This study, therefore, examines the effect of government policy stringency and handwashing on total daily reported COVID-19 cases.
Method: We use a comprehensive dataset of 176 countries to investigate the effect of government policy stringency and handwashing on daily reported COVID-19 cases. In this study, we apply the Lewbel (2012) two-stage least squares technique to control endogeneity.
Results: Our results indicated that GRSI significantly contributes to the increase in the total and new confirmed cases of COVI-19. Sensitivity analyses revealed that the 1st, 4th, and 5th quintiles of GRIS significantly reduce total confirmed cases of COVID-19. Also, the result indicated that while the 1st quintile of GRIS contributes significantly to reducing the new confirmed cases of COVID-19, the 3rd, 4th, and 5th quintiles of GRSI contribute significantly to increasing the new confirmed cases of COVID-19. The results indicated that HWF reduces total and new confirmed cases of COVID-19; however, such effect is not robust to income and regional effects. Nonlinear analysis revealed that while GRSI has an inverted U-shaped relationship with total and new confirmed cases of COVID-19, HWF has a U-shaped relationship.
Conclusion: We suggest that policymakers should focus on raising awareness and full engagement of all members of society in implementing public health policies rather than using stringent lockdown measures.