Limiting the spread of contagious diseases can involve both government-managed and voluntary efforts. Governments have a number of policy options beyond direct intervention that can shape individuals responses to a pandemic and its associated costs. During its first wave of COVID-19 cases, Singapore was among a few countries that attempted to adjust behavior through the announcement of detailed case information. Singapore’s Ministry of Health maintained and shared precise, daily information detailing local travel behavior and residences of COVID-19 cases. We use this policy along with device-level cellphone data to quantify how local and national COVID-19 case announcements trigger differential behavioral changes. We find evidence that individuals are three times more responsive to outbreaks in granularly defined locales. Conditional on keeping infection rates at a manageable level, the results suggest economic value in this type of transparency by mitigating the scope of precautionary activity reductions.
Economic Analysis and Policy
Does Precise Case Disclosure Limit Precautionary Behavior? Evidence from COVID-19 in Singapore