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How the coronavirus pandemic shut down the globe and shook up daily life

Some countries, for example Israel, Germany, Austria and the UK, have already endured three lockdowns, while in other places, like Mexico and Australia, a lockdown was imposed only once

MOSCOW, March 11. /TASS/. The COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a heavy blow to the everyday lives of billions of people across the planet, who found themselves shut inside the national borders and confined to their homes. People were left without any possibility to travel, go to museums and theaters, stadiums and gyms, or to meet with their friends in cafes or even at home.

This is far from the exhaustive list of restrictions imposed across the globe after COVID-19 crossed the Chinese border in January 2020 to quickly spread across the world, reaching every corner of the planet.

Border closures

The closure of the world’s borders, including air, land and sea borders, was among the most popular measures aimed at stopping the virus. Vietnam was the first to close its borders after China in February 2020, and by March about 100 countries where the infection was recorded had followed suit.

International passenger traffic, first of all flights, came to a grinding halt. Countries launched so-called repatriation flights, to return their nationals home, first from China and then from other countries with a high incidence of the disease.

The UK was among a few countries leaving their borders open. However, foreign nationals arriving from abroad had to produce the negative results on their coronavirus test and stay in quarantine for some time. A similar scheme was used by Switzerland, that was repeatedly reviewing the list of states whose nationals were allowed to enter.

To date, international passenger services have partially recovered, although most countries maintain entry restrictions. They generally do not apply to their own citizens and those holding a residency permit, as well as to valid reasons for entry (work, study, treatment, illness or death of a close relative). Requirements in a number of countries are constantly changing depending on the epidemiological situation.

Tourist trips abroad have become practically impossible due to the border closure. Egypt, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the Maldives, Cuba and Tanzania are among the few exceptions. However, tourists face certain restrictions there as well.


China, which was the first to face the epidemic, was also the first to apply the lockdown pattern. It fully isolated the epicenter in Wuhan, restricted domestic transport service to a minimum, closed schools and universities, enterprises and offices, introducing self-isolation for its nationals. For over a month, the economic and social life in the country shrank, but by the end of March, authorities said that the epidemic had been stopped. Afterwards, restrictions have been imposed locally, and have been more relaxed.

The US and Europe criticized the Chinese model, but had to do the same when the infection began to quickly spread into their countries. The shutdown of the economy was a heavy blow, with economists speaking about the biggest global recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Hardline quarantine restrictions remained in effect between March and May in most countries, after which they began to be gradually lifted.

"Smart quarantine" system

Most European countries had to resort to "smart quarantine" in autumn due to a spike in coronavirus cases. This quarantine does not halt economic and social life, like it was before, but only restricts sectors where contacts among the people are close. For Europeans, Americans and citizens of many Asian nations this meant in practice the closure of shops (apart from those selling food and essentials), suspension of the restaurant sector and services, a mass transition to remote work and studies, suspension of domestic tourism, closure of museums, theaters and cinemas along with other entrainment establishments. Sports competitions are held without spectators. Even religious events were banned, as well as wedding parties and commemoration meetings. Home visits were capped to not more than three close relatives. Restrictions on travel and curfew are also among the "smart quarantine" measures. Such set of measures is almost identical in most countries, but they were applied differently.

A curfew was imposed in Turkey ahead of the New Year holidays, which remained in place for four days, and then partial restrictions continued until spring on leaving home in the evening during the workdays and on the weekend.

Sweeping measures were also applied, for example the subway remained closed in the Indian capital for half-a-year. In Bahrain, cafes and restaurants remained closed for seven months.

Some countries, for example Israel, Germany, Austria and the UK, have already endured three lockdowns, while in other places, like Mexico and Australia, a lockdown was imposed only once.

Swedish model

Last spring, when almost all European countries imposed lockdowns, Sweden opted against any epidemiological measures, only giving recommendations for social distancing. However, soon the experiment was recognized as a failure - Sweden ranked 14th in Europe regarding the overall amount of coronavirus cases (604,600), but the number of infections and death per one million population did not differ much from Switzerland and Austria, which are comparable in population and size, and was much worse than in the neighboring Norway and Finland.

As a result, Sweden had to impose mandatory measures, such as wearing masks on public transport during the rush hour, a ban on selling alcohol after 20:00. Groups at restaurants are capped at four people, and restrictions have also been imposed on the number of customers at shops, shopping malls, etc.

Densely-populated Brazil and Indonesia also failed in their experiment not to declare a nationwide lockdown, imposing it only locally. As a result, Brazil comes in third on the number of infections (over 11 million) and second on the number of coronavirus fatalities (about 270,000). Indonesia, accordingly, ranks 18th (with 1.4 million infections) and 17th (with 38,000 deaths).

Discontent over quarantine restrictions

Masks have become an inalienable part of everyday life since the start of the epidemic. However, in some countries people have to wear masks even outdoors, and even on the beaches of Spain and California. In other places, people have to wear masks only in indoor public spaces and on transport. In France, even motorcyclists were told to wear masks and they had to challenge in court their right to wear helmets without masks underneath.

Not only rank-and-file citizens are discontent with restrictions, but also those whose business has found itself on the brink of survival - owners of beauty parlors, restaurants and car service centers, owners of hotels and gyms, whose activity stopped during the pandemic. Major rallies took place in the Netherlands, Germany, Serbia, Lithuania and other countries, where people took to the street to protest against the measures taken by local authorities or to demand their review.

Business people in some countries are making attempts to adjust their business to new legislation to continue it. In the Czech Republic, for examples, pub owners are reformatting them into clubs for ‘topic-oriented meetings’.