Comparing Lockdowns vs. Re-Openings

 By Ilan Solot and Kieran Chard

We created a simple 5-factor model to evaluate the restrictions imposed by different countries, how they compare in terms of severity of lockdown, and where they are heading in the spectrum of reopening. The scale we use measures grade restrictions from 1 (open) to 4 (closed) across the following factors: (a) schools, (b) non-essential businesses, (c) borders, (d) social distancing and (e) severity of penalties/prosecution.



Italy descended into total lockdown on March 9. New cases and daily death rates started to plateau around late-March and early-April, the government is starting to look towards easing lockdown restrictions. The country is now allowing small shops such as stationery and clothes retailers to open, albeit under a strict protocol. Wider containment measures will still be in place until at least May 3. Borders remain closed apart from repatriation flights, while fines of up to €3,000 for those who break the lockdown rules still stand. Schools and universities are remaining closed.


Spain has sought to ease the lockdown restrictions following a fall in the number of new cases and deaths reported. The government imposed nationwide restrictions on non-essential work starting March 30, but several municipalities in Catalan were already in quarantine for weeks. Authorities believe they have reached the peak and are starting to allow manufacturing, construction, and other services to resume, but only following strict safety guidelines. For those who are working remotely, social distancing is to resume until further notice. Fines and penalties are still in place although relaxed and borders remain closed.


France has decided to extend the restrictions into what Macron has called “a New Phase,” even though officials believe the virus numbers are near the peak. Lockdowns started in mid-March but now have been extended past the initial April 15 deadline to May 11. Schools and shops are set to progressively open on the 11th but restaurants, hotels, cafes and cinemas will remain shut for longer. Borders are closed for the foreseeable future.


The country has been under a “protection stage” since mid-March, but regional leaders recently started easing measures to restore the economy. On April 16, Germany drew up a list of steps including mandatory mask wearing in public, rapid tracing of infection chains, and limits on gatherings. The lockdown is due to end on April 20 for small retail spaces, and schools will start opening on May 4. A ban on large public gatherings will be in place until August 31. Borders were fully closed on March 18 and it’s unclear when they will start reopening.


The United Kingdom

The UK continues to see a rise in cases and deaths are still at a high level, though we are now likely near or at the plateau. The initial lockdown that started on March 23 was originally due to end on April the 15th but reports suggest it will be extended three weeks. Restrictions in place are strict with all non-essential businesses closed, schools and universities closed, while social distancing with penalties and fines are in place as well as closure of borders with only repatriation flights from major airports. Having seen the effects of the pandemic later than countries in Continental Europe, specific re-opening measures are not yet in sight.

The United States

The US has no uniform national policy for restrictions as the state and local governments dictate the severity of measures.  More than 90% of the US is currently under a stay at home directive. Some local governments are looking to lift restrictions, with New York Governor Cuomo beginning cautious talks about re-opening. There is considerable disagreement between state governors President Trump over the authority to call for reopening. According to Trump, the US has “passed the peak” and is ready to start opening parts of the country. As it stands, borders are closed and schools shut, but not all states have non-essential businesses closed. There is also considerable variation on penalties for breaching the lockdown. Trump Administration has penned in May 1 as possible date to re-open, but nothing is confirmed.


Japan’s lockdown rules have been far less stringent than in many other countries. Social distancing and isolation are purely advisory, and no fines are in place for disrespecting them. The government requested that schools close from late February to April 6. Last week Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a state of emergency, which gives prefectural governments more autonomy in their reactions, while also requesting many businesses limit or cease operations. However, the rising number of cases and deaths could lead to more stringent restrictions. Borders have been tightened with wide travel bans in place.


Sweden has taken a laissez faire approach to containing the pandemic, pursuing the “herd immunity” strategy. No lockdown has been issued. Schools remain open, while restaurants and bars that can provide table service remain open. Gatherings of less than 50 are permitted. However, borders are closed with no travel from inside EU or internationally permitted. There are no fines in place against individuals but businesses not complying with protocol can face fines and prosecution. With the virus numbers climbing sharply recently, the government has admitted mistakes have been made and tighter restrictions on social distancing may come out in the coming days.