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What is the Covid-19 Freedom Index?

Covid hospitalizations and deaths are falling in many countries – but some governments have been in no rush to return liberties and rights to their citizens. They must be held to account.

Even as billions are set to acquire immunity to the virus in 2021 – either through vaccination or antibodies following the course of illness – there has been little letup in crisis rhetoric, with those in power often advocating restrictive measures that go far beyond flattening any kind of curve. New regulations are set to be in place for years, if not permanently, unless there is significant accountability and pushback.

Our new Covid-19 Freedom Index will track whether the world’s leading economies, and major territories within them, are restricting their citizens. Whether it is in basic rights – such as freedom of movement, essential functions – like the ability to go to school or operate a business, or freedom from technological surveillance.

The index has its own limitations that we freely acknowledge. Any such ranking is subjective by its conception, whatever scientific veneer is given by formulas and tables. Nonetheless, to minimise bias, we have tried to break down our index into easily quantifiable and weighted criteria, and rigorously source each piece of information to official publications, where possible.

Secondly, this index does not attempt to measure the baseline and broader state of civil rights in different countries – merely how much they have been upended by Covid. A repressive country that has not implemented any additional restrictions due to the virus is still a repressive country.

Thirdly, while we are broadly alarmed by the authoritarian drift engendered by the pandemic, many of the disruptions can be understood only within the context of particular epidemiological situations. We are merely documenting these measures, not putting forward an argument about whether such steps are justified or not within a specific country.