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Explainer: Lockdown Measures across the World

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India is currently in the period of an extended lockdown. However, India is not the only country to have chosen lockdown measures to contain the spread of COVID-19. More than 90 countries around the world have imposed a partial or full lockdown. Here is a detailed explainer on lockdown measures in some of the important countries around the world.

Addressing the nation on 14 April 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced the extension of the Nation-wide lockdown till 03 May 2020. This extension is in continuation of the initial 21 day lockdown which was announced on 24 March 2020, in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

The lockdown being imposed in India is a complete lockdown, which means that the people are required not to step out of their houses, except for essentials and emergencies. The 2nd phase of lockdown, however, includes certain relaxations in non-hotspot districts and areas.

On 15 April 2020, Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issued the revised guidelines in view of the lockdown extension. Prior to the nationwide lockdown, few states like Telangana, Maharashtra, Karnataka etc. had already announced state-wide lockdowns in view of the prevalence of COVID-19 in the respective states.

With its initial lockdown announcement on 24 March 2020, India joined a growing list of countries which have announced lockdown as a preventive measure in wake of COVID-19 epidemic. More than 90 countries have imposed partial or complete lockdowns. In this story, we take a look at lockdown & other containment measures implemented by countries across the globe.

Lockdown as a pre-emptive measure

Lockdown is an emergency protocol imposed by someone in authority and prevents people from leaving a designated area. Although in recent times it is being associated with public health concern, it is not always the case. Lockdowns have been earlier used as a response to an emergency situation. For e.g. terrorist attack or threats, rioting etc.

In health-related terms, ‘Quarantine’  is the technical term which is used in reference to contain and restricting the movement of an infected person or a suspect, to contain the spread of an infectious disease.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued guidelines for quarantine of individuals in context of containment of COVID-19.

However, implementing lockdown measures for a health-related issue is beyond the suggested actions and guidelines of WHO. The first instance of the same was announced in the place of origin of COVID-19 i.e. Wuhan, China.

In the wake of outbreak of COVID-19, in Wuhan (China), quarantine measures were announced on 23 January 2020 which not only restricted the movement in and out of Wuhan & other cities in Hubei province, but also movement within the city with the exception of emergency services. The WHO albeit terming the lockdown as ‘unprecedented in Public Health History’ supported it as a key move towards containing the epidemic.

This action has been later replicated in other countries like Italy and Spain where the number of people infected with COVID-19 was increasing at alarming levels. Many of the countries which have announced the lockdown have termed it as a pre-emptive measure to:

  • Contain the spread.
  • Provide time for agencies involved to test, detect and treat those infected in addition to setting in place the necessary health infrastructure to deal with the pandemic

Lockdown in Wuhan and other infected areas helped in containing COVID-19

As per available information, during mid-December, a new cluster of people in Wuhan linked to the Huanan Seafood Market were diagnosed with pneumonia. The cause was traced to a new strain of Coronavirus.

  • The first death was recorded on 10 January 2020.
  • By around 22 January 2020, the virus has spread to other major cities and provinces in China.
  • On 23 January 2020, in an effort to contain further spread, a notice was issued by respective authorities in Wuhan informing the residents that all public transport is suspended. The residents of the City were not allowed to leave the city unless under certain circumstances and with due permission. Some sources estimate that around 3 lakh people left Wuhan during the time between the announcement at 2 am and the start of lockdown at 10 am.
  • By 24 January 2020, the lockdown measures were implemented in other cities of Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital. It needs to be noted that WHO had not yet declared COVID-19 as an epidemic by that time. The lockdown was further extended at least twice to last until 10 March 2020.
  • By Mid of March, nearly all the cites in Hubei Province, with the exception of Wuhan, removed the lockdown completely or have started easing the lockdown measures.
  • Between 18 and 22 of March 2020, Wuhan also eased the lockdown within the city, with continued restrictions around entry and exit.
  • By 08 April 2020, Wuhan lifted the lockdown and opened up transportation.
  • China implemented a Green Code Classification, based on which citizens would be able to travel. This indicates that they are symptom free.

There have been cases of initial panic among the public as well as on the economic front post the announcement of the lockdown. However, WHO backed this move. While few experts thought of this as an overreaction on part of the government, few other experts supported the lockdown measures whose studies indicate that the lockdown has helped in containing the spread.

Italy and France among the first countries in Europe to announce lockdowns

Europe has been badly hit by COVID-19, with many  countries like Italy, Spain, France, United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland, Portugal etc. reporting a high number of COVID-19 cases. The responses of each of these countries has been varied.

Italy

As on date, Italy is the second worst affected country in terms of fatalities. It is also the first COVID-19 epicentre beyond Wuhan. The first cases of this disease were confirmed by the Italian government on 30 January 2020. These were two Chinese tourists visiting Italy. Lombardy was the first region which was majorly hit by the disease.

  • On 21 February 2020, the first lockdown was imposed in the province of Lordi , in Lombardy. It was extended to other provinces in the region. While movement for essential and emergencies were allowed, all public gatherings including going to schools and work were restricted.
  • On 08 March 2020, the lockdown was extended to much of the northern provinces in Italy. People were provided the option to travel to and from these regions for any proven work requirement, health reasons and other emergencies. Tourists were also permitted to live the area. This was the only lockdown on such large scale after Wuhan, China.
  • On 09 March 2020, Italy became the first country to implement a Nation-wide lockdown. Apart from restrictions on travel, all sporting events were also cancelled. The lockdown was tightened further with everything closed except for essentials – pharmacy, food and grocery stores closed.
  • As per the latest update, the lockdown was extended until 03 May 2020. Apart from the essentials – stationery shops, book shops and children clothing shops are allowed to open from 10 April 2020.
  • Italy has also put in place sanctions against those violating the lockdown.

France

  • The first cases of COVID-19 in France were confirmed on 24 January 2020.
  • On 12 March 2020, the first announcement was made to close down Schools and Universities from 16 March 2020. This was followed by further announcements, where in all public gatherings of more than 100 people were not allowed, along with closure of all non-essential public spaces like restaurants, cafes, cinemas etc.
  • On 16 March 2020, a compulsory home-confinement was ordered for 15 days, which was further extended twice beyond the date.

Spain

Spain currently has the second highest number of infected cases and the third highest number of deaths caused due to COVID-19.

  • The first confirmed case in Spain was detected on 31 January 2020. Most of the initial cases belonged to Italian cluster, which were spread by tourists from Italy. By around the end of February, cases due to community transmission were identified.
  • On 13 March 2020- State of Alarm was announced by Spain for 15 days across the nation.
  • On 15 March 2020, a Nation-wide lockdown was announced in continuation of State of Alarm. All the residents were mandated to remain in home except for – purchase of food and medicines, emergencies and work. All the non-essential places were closed.
  • All the non-essential activities were banned from 28 March 2020.
  • Spain started to lift some of the restrictions on non-essential activities from 13 April 2020.

United Kingdom

United Kingdom was comparatively late in announcing a nation-wide lockdown, in spite of the increasing COVID-19 positive Cases. On 23 March 2020, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a Nationwide lockdown. These measures are considered to be the strictest Peace-time measures. As per the measures, people can leave their home sparingly for:

  • Shopping for basic necessities like food and medicines
  • One form of exercise – alone or people one loves with
  • Medical need to helping vulnerable people
  • Travelling to and from work in case of absolute necessity and work from home is not possible.

Apart from these, few of the other European countries (but not restricted to) which announced National lockdowns include – Austria, Denmark, Belgium, Switzerland, Greece, Netherlands, Ireland, Poland etc.  Germany & Russia have city/state specific lockdowns.

National Lockdown not announced in USA as yet

United States has emerged as the country with the highest number of COVID-29 infected cases as well as the country with highest deaths caused due to the disease. More than 7.5 lakh people are infected and more than 35 thousand have died.

On 31 January 2020, USA announced restriction on entry of immigrants and other persons who come from infected areas especially from China. USA has not announced a nationwide lock down yet.  

However, in view of the prevailing situation, few of the states have announced lockdowns. These states include – California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Wisconsin & Michigan. Apart from these, Kansas City and Clark Country have announced lockdowns in their own jurisdiction.

No National lockdown in South Korea and Iran despite being early hotspots.

South Korea was one of the first countries which was impacted by COVID-19, outside of China due to its geographical proximity which influences its travel and business. The country has since then been applauded for the proactive action it took in testing and identifying the cases.

However, South Korea has not announced any region wise lockdown. It however did have a lockdown for its military bases after three soldiers were tested positive.

Meanwhile, Iran has also not announced any national wide lockdown to contain the epidemic. It was the second hotspot after China where the disease spread rapidly. However, they did announce the closure of schools and Universities. Sports Events, Friday prayers and cultural events were cancelled. Further, Iranian Parliament was shutdown with 23 of the 290 members being tested positive.

Apart from India, Singapore, Thailand, UAE, Bangladesh, Pakistan are among the countries which have announced for a nationwide lockdown. Whereas Japan, Philippines & Saudi Arabia are among the Asian countries that have imposed lockdowns restricted to specific provinces, cities or states.

New Zealand among the countries which effectively used lockdown

New Zealand recorded its first case on 20 February 2020. Since then, the spread and fatalities have been among the lowest with more than 1400 cases and 12 deaths.

New Zealand has introduced a 4-level alert system based on the severity, with each level introducing different set of restrictions. The system is implemented across the country.

As per recent developments, the lockdown is expected to end within a week as the Nation moves back to Level 3.  The country was in a nationwide lockdown correlating to Level 4 for  the past 4 weeks.

Among the other countries across the world, South Africa has announced a Nationwide lockdown on 28 March 2020 for a period of 21 days, which was later extended.

Among the Latin American countries, Chile, Columbia, Argentina, Peru have announced Nation-wide lockdowns whereas Brazil with the highest number of cases in the region has locked down only two of its states.    

No conclusive evidence yet on the real impact of Lockdown

The official number of cases from China indicates that a major portion of the COVID-19 cases are restricted to Hubei province with the rest of the country accounting for far fewer numbers. One of the reasons attributed to the limit of the spread is the lockdown of Wuhan and the Hubei province.

Meanwhile the lockdowns imposed in Europe were after the infection spread across the country. Especially in Italy, it was initially limited only to Lombardy, then the northern Italy and then being extended to whole of Italy. In these countries, lockdown has been a reactive measure rather than a proactive one. Whether the numbers have subsided because of lockdown will only be known in future.

As highlighted, New Zealand stands out as an example controlling the spread through proactive lockdown measures.  Meanwhile, South Korea does seem to have managed to control the spread without any such measures.

In addition to lockdowns, proactive testing and identification does appear to be the way forward for countries which are still in the early stages of COVID-19 spread.

The case of India is no different as the current nation-wide lockdown coupled with increased testing are being seen as measures to control the rapid spread. The state of Kerala where the first case was reported does offer a model in terms of containing the spread by taking the required measures.

Featured Image: Lockdown Measures across the World

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