After over two years of strict travel bans and numerous policies somewhat successfully curbing the spread of the coronavirus inside its borders, China's "zero Covid" strategy is currently being put to the test. Amongst mass-testing efforts in Beijing and a slow easing of a month-long total lockdown in Shanghai, Reuters reported 73 new cases outside of the strict lockdown areas in the People's Republic's commercial hub on Monday. As our chart based on data from the Oxford Government Coronavirus Response Tracker shows, China has, with one exception, consistently ranked among the 20 countries with the strictest government policies in the face of major pandemic turning points.
When the virus was declared a pandemic on March 11, 2020, Italy and China ranked first and second with 73 and 72 out of 100 points, respectively, on the Oxford Containment and Health Index. At this point, only six countries registered more than 50 points on the index. By the time the deadlier Delta strain was classified as a variant of concern by the WHO on May 10, 2021 and with vaccines being available for roughly half a year, Turkey, Sri Lanka and Nepal took the top 3 spots, respectively.
China, on the other hand, came in at 41st place, even though it only fell by four index points. This fact showcases the severity and the spread of the virus once believed to vanish in a couple of weeks or months at most. By the time the more contagious, but allegedly less debilitating Omicron variant became dominant in November of 2021, restrictions had been eased in many of the countries ranking highest half a year earlier, propelling China into the top 20 again.
The Oxford Containment and Health Index calculates a mean value of the scope of 13 policy responses by governments around the world and covers 185 countries, regions and territories. Example metrics include school closures, vaccine rollout, testing policy, movement restrictions, cancellation of public events, face coverings and more. While more current data is spotty, most likely because many countries have done away with any but the most basic policies, other high-ranking countries at the end of April include Tonga, Pakistan, Laos, Vanuatu and Italy. Even though restrictions in affluent countries have been mostly abandoned, the developments in China show that the pandemic will probably be a global concern for at least the rest of the year.