UK coronavirus lockdown: How lockdown was enforced in China, France and Italy and how UK measures compare

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The UK is now on lockdown and has strict new measures in place to contain the spread of coronavirus

Prime Minister announced the news in his address to the nation on Monday (23 Mar) evening, ordering people to only leave their homes for specific and essential reasons.

The tougher restrictions come after urgent appeals to the public to stay indoors were largely ignored over the weekend.

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Several other countries have already enforced lockdown in an effort to stem the spread of the virus, including China, Italy and France, with the UK now following suit.

A number of countries have already enforced lockdown in an effort to stem the spread of the virus (Photo: Shutterstock)A number of countries have already enforced lockdown in an effort to stem the spread of the virus (Photo: Shutterstock)
A number of countries have already enforced lockdown in an effort to stem the spread of the virus (Photo: Shutterstock)

What enforcements have other countries imposed?

With the UK now under lockdown, here are some of the enforcements that have been imposed in other countries around the world that have been worst affected by the virus outbreak.

Wuhan, China

Wuhan in China, where coronavirus is said to have originated, imposed what is probably the most extreme lockdown so far from 23 January, with all journeys in and out of the city banned - even for those medical or humanitarian reasons.

Public transport in the city was suspended and private cars were barred from the roads in most circumstances.

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Most citizens live in residential blocks or compounds and were faced with barred visits, with only inhabitants, authorities, or carers helping the elderly or disable permitted access.

Schools and universities were already closed for the lunar new year, but this holiday was extended, and most shops were also shut, with only pharmacies and supermarkets kept open.

Residents were only permitted to leave their homes to pick up essential supplies or seek medical help - and those who did leave were required to wear a mask.

Conditions were tightened two weeks later, with authorities ordering house searches for potentially infected individuals, who were then forced into quarantine.

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China has now announced it will lift the lockdown on Wuhan on 8 April, more than two months after the restrictions were first imposed on the city.

Similar lockdown measures will also be lifted on Wednesday (25 Mar) for other cities in Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital.


Italy shut down the northern region on 8 March, which was hardest hit by the virus, and extended restrictions to the whole country just two days later.

Travel is now only allowed for “urgent, verifiable work situations and emergencies, or health reasons”, and anyone who has tested positive for coronavirus must not leave their homes for any reason.

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Any citizens who have a fever or respiratory symptoms are also strongly encouraged to stay at home and limit social contact, including with their doctor.

Public and private companies have been urged to put their staff on leave, in a bid to avoid work-related travel, and only supermarkets and pharmacies still remain open.

Both universities and schools are closed, with exams now cancelled, and all gatherings in public places have been banned, not just large-scale events.

Similarly, museums, nightclubs, cinemas, theatres and other leisure venues, including ski resorts, have also closed, and sporting events have been cancelled.

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Religious institutions have remained open, although people are to stay a metre from one another. Marriage ceremonies, baptisms and funerals have been banned.

Italy’s measures are to remain in place until at least 3 April.


France went into full lockdown on Tuesday 17 March, with citizens banned from leaving their homes except to buy food or essentials, visit the doctors, or travel to a job that is certified as not being possible to do from home.

Citizens must carry a document that certifies why they are outside, which must be shown to security forces.

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The lockdown was initially ordered for a 15 day period, but officials have already indicated that it could be extended.


San Francisco and five other Bay Area counties in California have ordered all residents to “shelter in place, effective until 7 April.

The voluntary order is directing residents to stay indoors unless absolutely necessary.

All businesses that are considered non-essential, such as bars and gyms, have been ordered to close, but the likes of pharmacies, grocery stores, petrol stations, and restaurants serving takeaway will remain open.

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Residents are permitted to leave their homes for essential tasks, but have been asked to keep six feet away from other people.

All non-essential gatherings of any size have also been prohibited, along with non-essential travel on “foot, bicycle, scooter, automobile, or public transit”.

Airports, taxis and public transport will still remain operational, but only for essential travel.

New York has also been placed under lockdown as of 22 March, requiring residents to stay at home.

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President Donald Trump issued guidelines to slow the spread of the virus over the course of 15 days, including curbing unnecessary travel.

How long will the UK lockdown last?

The lockdown measures will initially be in place for at least three weeks, taking effect immediately from Monday (23 Mar) night.

The situation will then be reviewed in 21 days and relaxed if the Government believes it to be possible and safe to do so.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, leader of the Health Protection Research Group at Nottingham University, told Today that more people will encounter the coronavirus and become resistant with so-called herd immunity, but said "that will take time".

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He said: “You're absolutely right that we can't say how long this will need to go on for.

"I don't know if it could be a year yet. I think we are too far out to make those kind of predictions but I certainly think it could be several months."

What restrictions are in place?

The new restrictions now mean people should only leave their home for the following four reasons:

- Infrequent shopping for basic necessities, such as food or medicine. People should use delivery services where they can

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- One form of exercise per day, either alone or with people you live with

- For a medical need, such as a doctor or hospital visit, or to take care of the vulnerable

- To go to work, but only if this cannot be done from home

Shops that are permitted to stay open include supermarkets and other food shops, health shops, pharmacies, petrol stations, bicycle shops, home and hardware shops, launderettes and dry cleaners, garages, car rentals, pet shops, corner shops, newsagents, post offices and banks.

Parks will also remain open for exercise, but playgrounds and outdoor gym spaces will now be closed.

How will restrictions be enforced?

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Mr Johnson said that police will have “the powers to enforce” these rules, and can issue fines of £30 and dispersal orders.

This is similar to measures put in place in other European countries, including France, which has issued more than 90,000 fines since the lockdown began a week ago.

France has also issued citizens with forms to fill out whenever they leave the house, which details precisely why they are out.

Coronavirus: the facts

What is coronavirus?

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can affect lungs and airways. It is caused by a virus called coronavirus.

What caused coronavirus?

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The outbreak started in Wuhan in China in December 2019 and it is thought that the virus, like others of its kind, has come from animals.

How is it spread?

As this is such a new illness, experts still aren’t sure how it is spread. But, similar viruses are spread in cough droplets. Therefore, covering your nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing, and disposing of used tissues straight away is advised. Viruses like coronavirus cannot live outside the body for very long.

What are the symptoms?

The NHS states that the symptoms are: a dry cough, high temperature and shortness of breath - but these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness. Look out for flu-like symptoms, such as aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose and a sore throat. It’s important to remember that some people may become infected but won’t develop any symptoms or feel unwell.

What precautions can be taken?

Washing your hands with soap and water thoroughly. The NHS also advises to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze; put used tissues in the bin immediately and try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell. Also avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth unless your hands are clean.

Government advice

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As of Monday 23 March the prime minister has put the UK into lockdown and instructed all citizens to stay at home. People can only leave their homes to exercise once a day, go shopping for food and medication, travel for medical needs or to care for a vulnerable person, and travel to work only if essential. Police will be able to enforce these restrictions.

All non-essential shops will close with immediate effect, as will playgrounds, places of worship and libraries. Large events or gatherings of more than two people cannot go ahead, including weddings and celebrations. Funerals can only be attended by immediate family.

Children of separated parents can go between both parents' homes.

Anyone with a cough or cold symptoms needs to self-isolate with their entire household for 14 days.

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The government has now instructed bars, restaurants, theatres and non-essential businesses to close and will review on a ‘month to month’ basis. Schools closed from Friday 20 March for the foreseeable future, and exams have been cancelled.

The over 70s or anyone who is vulnerable or living with an underlying illness are being asked to be extra careful and stay at home to self-isolate. People with serious underlying health conditions will be contacted and strongly advised to undertake "shielding" for 12 weeks.

For more information on government advice, please check their website

Should I avoid public places?

You should now avoid public places and any non-essential travel. Travel abroad is also being advised against for the next 30 days at least, and many European countries have closed their borders.

What should I do if I feel unwell?

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Don’t go to your GP but instead call NHS 111 or look online at the coronavirus service that can tell you if you need medical help and what to do next.

When to call NHS 111

NHS 111 should be used if you feel unwell with coronavirus symptoms, have been in a country with a high risk of coronavirus in the last 14 days or if you have been in close contact with someone with the virus.

Sources: World Health Organisation and NHS