WHO/Europe has just launched its Public Health and Social Measures (PHSM) Severity Index to provide standardized data on the ways in which countries in the WHO European Region have sought to slow or stop community spread of COVID-19. This latest tool systematically captures and analyses individual governmental PHSM responses to COVID-19 in the 53 countries of the Region.
“Public health and social measures often work together and should be considered in view of the larger COVID-19 response,” explains Ihor Perehinets, Programme Area Manager, Country Health Emergency Preparedness and IHR. “This tool is a first in WHO. By presenting epidemiological data and governments’ PHSM interventions, we trust that it will strongly inform countries’ efforts in further strengthening their response to the pandemic.”
The PHSM Severity Index is integrated into WHO/Europe’s COVID-19 Dashboard, which allows quick visualization of the most up-to-date COVID-19 statistics and information pertinent to each country in the Region. It captures 6 types of public health measures: the wearing of masks; closure of schools; closure of offices, businesses, institutions and operations; restrictions on gatherings; restrictions on domestic movement; and limitations to international travel.
These indicators represent common, restrictive large-scale interventions taken by a significant number of countries throughout the Region. The scope, severity and timing of their implementation is also aggregated to produce a composite PHSM Severity Index score, which is an average of these 6 indicators.
This level of analysis enables a comparison of individual public health measures within a country as well as overall responses across countries. It also allows for the nuances of each individual government’s actions to be analysed and understood. Common PHSM strategies, outliers and emergent patterns can be seen through a regional-level analysis and these insights, supported by country-specific examples, provide a comprehensive overview to inform policy-making.
Countries are implementing packages of measures calibrated to the local context and epidemiology of the disease. These measures help to stop chains of transmission and prevent outbreaks and are therefore critical in limiting the further spread of COVID-19 at the community level.