The outbreak of Covid-19 caused countries to go into lockdown, shutting down life as we know it. However, lockdown restrictions are slowly easing worldwide, rallying both praise and criticism.
So, what has the lockdown experience been like around the world?
Lockdown in Denmark
Denmark has just under 12,000 confirmed cases and over 500 deaths, one of the lowest death rates in Europe. The country has been praised for its quick implementation of a lockdown. It was one of the first countries to introduce it in Europe.
Murtajis Shabbir, 20, lives in Copenhagen. He praises the government’s speed: “Even though there were under 500 cases, we already started quarantine.”
At the start of March, gatherings of over 10 people were banned. Many borders were shut down and the workforce was told to stay at home. Even during lockdown, eating out “wasn’t a problem”. “Every restaurant was doing takeaway, so I feel like it wasn’t that bad,” says Murtajis.
The government’s quick reaction to the virus meant Denmark was one of the first countries to ease restrictions back in April. It returned to a sense of normal, such as re-opening hairdressers and shops. On April 15th, children aged 11 and younger returned to schools and kindergarten. Children over 11 returned to school just over a month later.
On the 18th of May, cafés, restaurants and shops had permission to resume business. This allowed the public to enjoy food and drinks outside. Couples who have a significant other in Nordic countries were also able to visit Denmark. But they did have to provide a proof of relationships.
Now the lockdown is over, Murtajis says “I’m going out every day – going out for runs, meeting up with friends and just drinking outside. Areas at times might be crowded, but most people keep their distance from other groups.” Many are still working from home. Yet some offices have returned to work and people of different households can meet.
Lockdown in Italy
Italy has suffered one of the highest death tolls in the world, with over 230,000 confirmed cases and approximately 33,000 deaths. Alessandra Iellamo, 19, returned to Sardinia from London in mid-March. “I immediately felt safe. Especially because as we arrived at the airport, security guards kept telling passengers to keep a one-metre distance between each other. They checked our temperatures.”
Although she describes her initial lockdown experience as “strict and intense,” Alessandra praises the government’s “persistent approach” to the virus. She says that Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte revealed ‘red zones’ to the public where the virus was at its peak. “I am proud of how our government has responded to the pandemic and made public health a priority for everyone, regardless of age and conditions. But also how citizens responded to the change and co-operated,” she says. “I don’t feel completely safe when I go out and I see places that are overcrowded. People don’t seem to respect the distance. But there are also people who prefer to stay at home or who go out only for primary necessities.”
The reopening of the country began in early May – citizens can now visit relatives in the region and 15 people are allowed per funeral. Masks are mandatory. Olivia Rafferty, 19, lives in Milan. She recently visited the city centre with her friends, describing it as “ghostly”. She says it felt “surreal” due to the lack of tourists. “We went into a bar yesterday, and we had to get our fever checked and give our phone numbers. If anyone gets infected within the two weeks we go there, they can trace it back to us and make sure we isolate.”
Lockdown in the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom is one of the worst affected countries in Europe, with over 275,000 cases and 39,000 deaths. The government’s lockdown approach has been criticised for being too late, as the first transmission of the virus was confirmed in February, but the official lockdown was announced on March 23rd by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Teddy Attafuah, 19, lives in London. He describes the response as a “joke”. Teddy says the UK’s response is similar to that of developing countries with “much worse” healthcare systems. He describes lockdown as “hard, but not as hard as losing a loved one, being gravely ill, or having to work on the frontline”.
On the 10th of May, Johnson announced a plan to ease lockdown restrictions. The announcement encouraged the public to go to work if they cannot work from home, have unlimited exercise outside, but stay alert and stay home as much as possible. Elsa Froggatt-Brown, 19, who returned home to London after her university shut in America, says the government guidelines are not consistent – “One second we were told to stay at home, but within the same announcement we were told to leave our houses and go to work or do exercises.” She also says that the lockdown was not “strict enough”, as “many people were violating the rules and not social distancing, and there were no consequences.”
A study by University College London revealed less than 50% of people under 30 were “completely” complying with lockdown rules. Teddy describes lockdown as “frustrating”; he feels people are not taking it seriously or treating it as an “extreme, actually disastrous situation”. Elsa explained she found it harder to move out the way of others in parks as they get busier but feels that “as a whole, people seem to be social distancing.”
Lockdown in Australia
Australia has around 8,000 confirmed cases and approximately 100 deaths – Sky News host Peta Credlin labelled Australia as the “envy of the world” with a “world-class health system”. Australia imposed travel bans to and from China in February and introduced a general travel ban on 20th March. Jemima Gordon, 19, has been living in Cairns during the pandemic – she says that the government acted well – “Obviously they had a lucky advantage, (Covid-19) arriving here later than in Europe, but we shut it down promptly,” she says. Zane Carboni, 19, lives in Sydney – he describes his lockdown as “incredibly mild on a global scale” and “unobtrusive,” except for clubs, pubs and restaurants being shut.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison detailed a 3-step plan to ease lockdown at the start of May, which aims to reopen the country in July, but each state will differ slightly in their measures and timing. Jemima says that living in Australia “hardly felt like a lockdown”. “It’s been a little frustrating at times not being able to do what I would ideally like to be doing. But I’ve been going out cycling, rollerblading and hiking for my daily hour of exercise,” she adds.
The plan outlined phase 1 as allowing gatherings of up to 10 people. Cafés and restaurants can seat customers instead of just takeaways if they can be seated distanced from each other. Those who cannot work from home may return to work. Retail stores, universities and outdoor gyms may also open with the 10-person limit.
When going food shopping, Jemima says: “Everyone is pretty respectful and socially distancing. Sometimes in the big supermarkets or along the beachfront, it gets a bit busy, but there’s so much space here that it’s not really an issue.”
Lockdown in Switzerland
Switzerland has over 30,000 confirmed cases and nearly 2,000 deaths. Lockdown banned all private and public events, as well as gatherings of over five people. Carolina Restelli, 20, was in Lugano, a city in the Ticino region for the last two months whilst lockdown was implemented. “The supermarkets were always stocked up, and had gloves and gels distributed with guards making sure everyone got them,” she says. Carolina adds her lockdown experience “has not been as intense as I’ve heard other friends experience it. I feel I’m in a safe bubble. Even if there are cases in Lugano, I felt that it was well taken care of.”
The Swiss government, like many others, has gradually eased its lockdown in phases: since April 27th, hairdressers, beauticians and garden centres reopened, with greater funeral attendance allowed. On May 11th, some primary and lower secondary schools and bars reopened. Normal public transport services also resumed. “In a pandemic where we are facing an unexpected and unknown virus, the situation could have been handled way worse. The numbers could have been way higher,” adds Carolina.
Public health authorities continue to recommend working from home and social distancing. Carolina says that she is trying to stay at home as much as she did at the start of the pandemic. “The other day I did see a friend for the first time. We went for a walk together, though we still kept our distance to be safe,” she says.
Lockdown in Germany
Germany has just over 183,000 cases and approximately 8,600 deaths. Germany’s mass testing and effective lockdown strategy have kept numbers lower than other western countries. Jess Müller, aged 19, lives in Wolfsburg. She says the government reacted “quickly”. “They closed all the schools, universities, kindergartens, shops, and everything non-essential within a week or so,” she says. Bavarian Leader Markus Söder says that Germany is doing better than many countries due to a strong strategy and population compliance. “People took the measures very seriously, which helped flatten the curve,” Jess adds.
Although praising her government for a strict lockdown, Jess criticises that final exams for students continued. “We had to pretend like everything was normal while it obviously was not. They did not consider our mental state or that we haven’t been able to properly prepare because of school closings.” She says that there were voluntary exam prep classes in school. Desks were distanced in the gymnasium during exams and they were required to wear masks. “I think (the government) generally reacted well but for me as a student, I felt irrelevant to the government.”
Lockdown easing has enabled two households to meet and shops to reopen. More schools are also gradually reopening. Masks are mandatory in public, with social distancing still being encouraged. Border controls have been eased since 15th May with Austria, France and Switzerland. Some football clubs have also been allowed to training and play matches, unlike most European leagues. However, Chancellor Angela Merkel has stated an “emergency brake” will be implemented if there is a surge in new infections. “I feel very secure about my government being able to handle or not let a second wave happen. Loosened orders are ‘on probation.” Says Jess, adding, “As soon as the R rate would reach over 1.0 the government would go back to phase 1.”
Disclaimer: the statistics used throughout are taken from a variety of sources utilised through Google and Bing. Statistics are accurate at the time of publishing.