Lower awareness of COVID-19, poorer health and economic conditions could reduce the effectiveness of lockdowns in developing countries, according to researchers from The University of Western Australia.
The research, published in Plos One, found stricter restrictions generally led to less movement and fewer confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths.
The researchers from UWA’s Business School analysed COVID-19 statistics and lockdown measures around the world to measure the impact of the restrictions during the first wave of the pandemic.
"We found stringent mobility restrictions in the first two weeks of the first identified case are crucial to containing the contagion, especially in developed countries like Australia. But for developing countries, reducing mobility is not enough.”Dr Tushar Bharati
In countries considered less developed, with high population density, poorer education and health services, people appeared to move about less during lockdowns, however this did not lead to better containment of the virus.
In more developed countries, the success of lockdowns in containing the virus was much higher.
Dr Tushar Bharati said the results highlighted the need to complement mobility and activity restrictions with other health and information measures, especially in less-developed countries, to combat the pandemic effectively.
"We found stringent mobility restrictions in the first two weeks of the first identified case are crucial to containing the contagion, especially in developed countries like Australia. But for developing countries, reducing mobility is not enough,” Dr Bharati said.
“The results call for a country-specific policy response suited to the institutional capacity and socio-economic circumstances of the country.”
Co-author and PhD student Adnan Fakir from UWA’s Business School said on top of the lower relative effectiveness of reduced mobility in controlling the spread, the economic cost of these restrictions was also higher in developing countries.
“As such mobility and activity restrictions alone are not as effective and targeted non-pharmaceutical behavioural interventions, such as Bangladesh’s mass mask-wearing campaign, are a necessity,” Mr Fakir said.
Restrictions were better adhered to in more democratic countries with less perceived government corruption.
Dr Bharati said understanding the effectiveness of mobility and activity restrictions in containing contagions was a critical part of COVID-19 response efforts.
“Not only will this help optimise our current response to COVID-19 but also prepare us better to face future disease outbreaks,” Dr Bharati said.