An exploration of the political, social, economic and cultural factors affecting how different global regions initially reacted to the COVID-19 pandemic

Interface Focus. 2022 Feb 11;12(2):20210079. doi: 10.1098/rsfs.2021.0079. eCollection 2022 Apr 6.


Responses to the early (February-July 2020) COVID-19 pandemic varied widely, globally. Reasons for this are multiple but likely relate to the healthcare and financial resources then available, and the degree of trust in, and economic support provided by, national governments. Cultural factors also affected how different populations reacted to the various pandemic restrictions, like masking, social distancing and self-isolation or self-quarantine. The degree of compliance with these measures depended on how much individuals valued their needs and liberties over those of their society. Thus, several themes may be relevant when comparing pandemic responses across different regions. East and Southeast Asian populations tended to be more collectivist and self-sacrificing, responding quickly to early signs of the pandemic and readily complied with most restrictions to control its spread. Australasian, Eastern European, Scandinavian, some Middle Eastern, African and South American countries also responded promptly by imposing restrictions of varying severity, due to concerns for their wider society, including for some, the fragility of their healthcare systems. Western European and North American countries, with well-resourced healthcare systems, initially reacted more slowly, partly in an effort to maintain their economies but also to delay imposing pandemic restrictions that limited the personal freedoms of their citizens.

Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; government; guidance; lockdown; pandemic response.

Publication types

  • Review

Associated data

  • figshare/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.5832959