Discussion Paper

COVID-19 International Evidence: Some Notable Puzzles


Abstract: This article uses international evidence to argue that we still have limited knowledge about the efficacy of widely used preventive actions, such as social distancing and face masks, in containing the spread of the novel COVID-19 virus. I document three puzzles. One, Peru enacted unprecedented lockdowns early in the pandemic, which led to a record contraction in economic activity. The country’s residents also adopted near-universal face mask usage. None of these actions, however, prevented Peru from experiencing the world’s highest per capita mortality rate from the virus. Second, southeast Asian countries practically did not register cases despite being closely interconnected to the source of the virus and adopting rather lax viruscontainment policies. Third, sub-Saharan African countries were largely spared from the virus, despite being considered very high-risk countries at the onset of the pandemic. I also discuss some emerging hypotheses that could explain these puzzles. Rather than rebuffing proven preventive actions like social distancing and face mask usage, this article highlights the limited knowledge we still have on this novel disease.

Keywords: COVID-19;

JEL Classification: E19; I19;

https://doi.org/10.29338/ph2020-14

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Provider: Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta

Part of Series: Policy Hub

Publication Date: 2020-12-04

Number: 2020-14