The effect of state-level social distancing policy stringency on mobility in the states of Brazil

by Lorena G. Barberia, Luiz G. R. Cantarelli, Maria Leticia C. F. Oliveira, Natália P. Moreira, Isabel Seelaender C. Rosa


In Brazil, sub-national governments have played a particularly important role as the key actors implementing non-pharmaceutical interventions to halt the spread of COVID-19. Building on the methodology proposed by the Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker (OxCGRT), we coded the stringency levels of state-level school, commerce, services, industry, public gathering, and private event closure policies and describe these actions’ duration at the state-level in Brazil from early February to mid-May 2020. Our results suggest significant heterogeneity across Brazil and across weeks in social distancing policy stringency during this period. We then apply dynamic times-series cross-sectional methods to evaluate the effect of anti-contagion policies on the population’s mobility using cell phone location data. We find that anti-contagion policies had a significant effect on producing higher adherence to remaining at home even though social distancing policies were relatively moderate as compared to other countries. Our results also suggest that social distancing policies have a greater impact when a more complete and coherent set of policies were introduced and sustained by state governments.

COVID-19; non-pharmaceutical interventions; Brazil; states; federalism

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