Is Northern Ireland one of the most locked-down places in the world?

CLAIM: Northern Ireland is one of the most “locked-down” places in the world.

CONCLUSION: ACCURATE. According to a “Government Stringency Index”, the UK has one of the strictest lockdown policies in the world, but the Northern Ireland Executive’s response is not the strictest within the UK.

During a debate in the Northern Ireland Assembly, on a Private Members’ Motion that called for a recovery and investment strategy, Christopher Stalford MLA said:

“… I am pointing out that Northern Ireland is one of the most locked-down places in the world with regard to controlling access to education, closing off huge swathes of our economy and all the resultant trouble that will come from that.”

Coronavirus pandemic government responses

The word “lockdown” is interpreted as the responses by governments to the coronavirus pandemic, which includes business and social restrictions.

It is possible to compare the “severity” of lockdowns globally using an index score developed by researchers at the University of Oxford. Their “Government Stringency Index” is a composite measure based on nine indicators, including school closures, workplace closures, and travel bans, rescaled to a value from 0 to 100 (100 = strictest).

On 22 February 2020, the UK ranked sixth strictest (scoring 86.11) out of the available data for 185 countries. Ireland was eighth strictest (scoring 85.19).

You can explore the stringency index and other indicators using the interactive maps and charts at Our World in Data.

Regional comparisons

The Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker (OxCGRT) includes data for the UK regions, which was used for a working paper that presented some comparative charts.

Using the latest datasets, we produced the following chart that shows how the stringency index has changed over time, among the UK regions. Northern Ireland has rarely been the most stringent UK region, with the latest available scores (10 February) for England and Wales showing that they are higher — indicating a more stringent lockdown environment — than Northern Ireland and Scotland.


Summary

Thanks to a research project at the University of Oxford, we can compare responses by governments to the coronavirus pandemic. According to a “Government Stringency Index”, the UK has one of the strictest lockdown policies in the world, but the Northern Ireland Executive’s response is not the strictest within the UK.


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