INTRODUCTION – During the COVID-19 pandemic, most countries have decided to implement social distancing measures, enacting strategies to control population movement and suspend academic activities and nonessential trade (HATE and WEBSTER, 2020). However, despite the WHO recommendation and empirical evidence (BRISCESE, et. al. 2020; DOUGLAS, et. al., 2020.; KRAEMER, 2020; NICOLA, et. al. 2020), some leaders in the US, Europe, and Latin America are skeptical about the effectiveness of social distancing policies. These leaders have criticized these policies, arguing that social distancing aggravates the economic crisis without necessarily alleviating the pandemic.

The purpose of this article is to evaluate the effectiveness of social distancing, as measured by the Social Isolation Index (SII), in mitigating COVID-19 cases and deaths in Brazil. An intriguing aspect of this problem is that, as the number of infections has grown, there has been a natural trend toward self confinement irrespective of whether social distancing is implemented as a policy. Therefore, social distancing and the number of cases of COVID-19 are simultaneously determined phenomena. To capture the causal effect of social distancing on the COVID-19 pandemic, in this research, we adopt a difference-indifference instrumented (DDIV) strategy (Duflo 2001). Our identification hypothesis focuses on the idea that an exogenous shock was President Bolsonaro’s speech encouraging Brazilians not to reduce their labor activities; by encouraging business as usual, this shock weakened quarantine orders at the state level.

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