The Economist launches “normalcy index” to quantify the return of pre-pandemic life in 50 countries
July 1, 2021

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According to The Economist's data team, Hong Kong is closest to normality based on overall 96% return to pre-pandemic activity levels

The Economist, one of the world’s most trusted sources of news and analysis, has developed a "normalcy index" to measure changes in human behaviour around the world based on data gathered at daily and weekly intervals to evaluate how life has changed since the onset of the pandemic. 

The “normalcy index” tracks eight variables (sports attendance, time at home, traffic congestion, retail footfall, office occupancy, flights, film box office and public transport) for 50 countries representing about 75% of global population and 90% of global GDP. 

The aggregated scores of the indicators are used to rank the countries. The normalcy index will track ongoing behaviour as new restrictions, setbacks or progress is made toward normalcy, factors that would impact levels of human activity. 

In addition to analysis to be published in a Graphic Detail article, the normalcy index will include regularly updated interactive graphics allowing users to track how each of the 50 countries is progressing across each indicator. 

According to The Economist’s normalcy index, the world is slowly coming back to pre-pandemic levels. The overall global normalcy index slumped from a value of 80 (where 100 is equal to the pre-pandemic norm) at the beginning of March 2020 to just 35 by mid-April as the novel coronavirus spread throughout the world. The index bounced back rapidly, hitting 50 in July 2020. After rising again in September, it has, until recently, waxed and waned around an average level of about 60. In the past two weeks leading up to the 1st of July 2021, the index has risen to a level of 66.

Within the rankings of the 50 countries evaluated, the top five that are closest to returning to normal are Hong Kong at 96%, New Zealand at 88% and Pakistan, Nigeria and Ukraine at 84%. For some other countries, “normalcy” is a bit farther off, with Britain ranked 36th, the United States 20th, France 11th, Germany 33rd, and China ranked 19th.

The top 10 countries on the path to normalcy are (click for to see all 50 countries)

  1. Hong Kong at 96% 

  2. New Zealand at 87%

  3. Pakistan at 84%

  4. Nigeria at 84%

  5. Ukraine at 84%

  6. Romania at 82%

  7. Denmark at 81%

  8. Egypt at 81%

  9. Israel at 80%

  10. Mexico at 80%

Other covid-19 data projects from The Economist’s data team include an interactive covid-19 risk estimator used to determine the probability of risk of hospitalisation or death for an unvaccinated person diagnosed with covid-19 in America within 30 days of a positive test for covid-19. The data team also created a global excess deaths tracker to measure the true number of fatalities being caused by the pandemic because official death statistics were undercounting the total number of fatalities. And a global vaccine tracker.

The Economist normalcy index:

For more information on the normalcy index or to interview James Fransham at The Economist please contact: US [email protected] / UK [email protected]

About The Economist
With a growing global audience and a reputation for insightful analysis and perspective on every aspect of world events, The Economist is one of the most widely recognised and well-read current-affairs publications in the world. In addition to the weekly print and digital editions and website, The Economist publishes Espresso, a daily news app, and Global Business Review, a bilingual English-Chinese product. It produces The Intelligence, a daily current-affairs podcast, several other weekly podcasts and short- and long-form video. The Economist maintains robust social communities on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networks. 

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