SOUTH Korea has been held up as a model example on how to deal with the coronavirus, as European nations use "heavy handed" measures, a new analysis claims.

The University of Oxford is behind a new tool which provides a chance to compare and contrast policy responses of governments tackling the coronavirus outbreak around the world.

The Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker counts data from 73 countries so far, including China, South Korea, Italy, UK and USA.

And Thomas Hale, associate professor of the university's Blavatnik School of Government, said its tracker shows how in Europe there are a lot of countries using "heavy handed measures because they didn't respond fast enough in the beginning".


He added: "That is probably the right policy now, because we need to slow the rate of infection to keep the hospitals within manageable parameters.

The comparison chart shows how the UK's most stringent responses to the virus outbreak has come far later than most of the six countries analysed, and is considered the most relaxed, so far. 

"Model countries are [South] Korea, for example, which has done a huge amount of testing and has never had to reach as high a level of shutdown as we are seeing now in Europe. I would point to that as a good example," said Mr Hale, who leads the tracking project.

"We see from north east Asia countries that they never reach the levels of stringency we now see in France or Italy or Spain. Why? Because they probably had a contact tracing system that allowed them to catch it earlier."

South Korea's first case was reported on January 20, compared with Italy's on January 31 - but the disease's trajectory could not be more different.

South Korea, with a 51.5m population has seen just 162 deaths, while Italy, with a population that is just 9m higher has the most deaths globally now at 11,591.  The UK, with a 64.4m population has 1808 deaths - more than 10 times that of South Korea.

It is said a mass testing campaign along with intensive contact tracing has allowed the infected to quickly isolate, and curb the spread, making it far more manageable for hospitals.

Mr Hale, who stressed they were not evaluating the effectiveness of government responses, told Sky News: "We know the most important thing is to break the chain of infection. That requires testing, contact tracing, isolation. But governments can buy themselves time if they can't do that or don't do that quickly enough through more radical measures like shutting down schools...


"We are seeing the highest levels of stringency now in most of continental Europe, Italy, France, Spain at the top of the scale. The UK is a bit behind that, about the same levels as Canada and the US.

"What we have here is a first cut of what governments are doing or not doing."

The new tracker is designed to systematically record government responses worldwide and aggregate the scores into a common Stringency Index which the creators hope will help researchers, policymakers and citizens understand whether increasingly strict measures affect the rate of infection, and identify what causes governments to implement stricter or less strict measures.