Working Paper
Governance and COVID-19 in Bolivia

On 10 March 2020, the Bolivian government identified two COVID-19 cases in Bolivians returning from Italy. The national government responded swiftly and sent the country into one of the world’s strictest lockdowns on 22 March 2020.

However, low state capacity and low government legitimacy snarled up the national government’s response. Despite an initial centralized response to the pandemic, the national government devolved authority to the country’s decentralized subnational authorities, with some following the national government’s directives, most selectively complying, and some resisting.

We analyse original daily data on COVID-19 cases, deaths, movements, and policies at the subnational level from Bolivia’s nine departments. The data spans a year, from 10 March 2020 to 10 March 2021. We find that some departments had much higher cases and deaths per 100,000 residents than others.

Our initial descriptive data suggests that local containment policies and proximity to Brazil explain some variation in cases and deaths, but surprisingly, local state and health capacity does not clearly account for the variation.