Urban-Rural Disparities for COVID-19: Evidence from 10 Countries and Areas in the Western Pacific

Minah Park, Jue Tao Lim, Lin Wang, Alex R. Cook, Borame L. Dickens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background. Limited evidence on the effectiveness of various types of social distancing measures, from voluntary physical distancing to a community-wide quarantine, exists for the Western Pacific Region (WPR) which has large urban and rural populations. Methods. We estimated the time-varying reproduction number (Rt) in a Bayesian framework using district-level mobility data provided by Facebook (i) to assess how various social distancing policies have contributed to the reduction in transmissibility of SARS-COV-2 and (ii) to examine within-country variations in behavioural responses, quantified by reductions in mobility, for urban and rural areas. Results. Social distancing measures were largely effective in reducing transmissibility, with Rt estimates decreased to around the threshold of 1. Within-country analysis showed substantial variation in public compliance across regions. Reductions in mobility were significantly lower in rural and remote areas than in urban areas and metropolitan cities (p < 0:001) which had the same scale of social distancing orders in place. Conclusions. Our findings provide empirical evidence that public compliance and consequent intervention effectiveness differ between urban and rural areas in the WPR. Further work is required to ascertain the factors affecting these differing behavioural responses, which can assist in policy-making efforts and increase public compliance in rural areas where populations are older and have poorer access to healthcare.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9790275
JournalHealth Data Science
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
MP, JTL, ARC, and BLD have received study funding from Singapore Population Health Improvement Centre (NMRC/CG/C026/2017_NUHS) and the COVID-19 grant (COVID19RF-004). LW has received funding from the European Research Council (grant no. 804744) and the EPSRC Impact Acceleration Grant (RG90413).

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2021 Minah Park et al. Exclusive Licensee Peking University Health Science Center. Distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 4.0).


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