Introduction The global spread of COVID-19 has led to a wide range of pandemic response measures, with great heterogeneity between countries, varying mostly in time and duration of implementation. The stringency level of measures was based on different epidemiological and health services indicators. In this work, we aimed to assess the association between these indicators and the stringency level imposed by countries.
Methods We performed a retrospective observational and methodological study, using daily data on 22 EU countries between April and December 2020. The main outcome used was a composite indicator on the level of stringency of government response measures from the Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker which comprises information on containment and health measures, economic response measures, health systems measures and vaccine policies measures. Lagged independent variables used were death rate, hospital bed occupancy rate, ICU occupancy rate and 14-day cumulative COVID-19 incidence. A panel data random-effects regression analysis was performed.
Results COVID-19 death rate showed the largest effect on the level of stringency of these EU countries, followed by ICU occupancy rate, hospitalization rate and COVID-19 incidence.
Discussion We show that epidemiological and health services indicators impacted the adoption of response measures to the COVID-19 pandemic differently. This highlights the different relative importance of incidence, death and pressure on health services when choosing between health and economic growth.
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