A Brief Breakdown of Lockdowns

Introducing lockdowns to cut off Covid-19 chains of infection has given the entire world much to consider. Here is our takeaway for current and future purposes.


It has become clear that introducing a lockdown is a common and significant tool in dealing with the outbreak of Covid-19 worldwide. That said, the impact of the lockdown on the economy and the lives of citizens is manifestly negative.

There are several types of lockdowns, which vary depending on the lockdown’s goals: Lowering the rate of a high/uncontrolled infection, preventing future outbreaks
based on anticipated events, and acquiring time for outbreaks control.

Most of the lockdowns imposed during the first wave were full nationwide lockdowns, characterized by movement restrictions as well as the closure of schools, businesses, entertainment, and sports venues. After this period, additional lockdowns were characterized by the imposition of local restrictions according to case rates in the area. This approach made it possible to more precisely treat infected areas and locate infection chains, which avoids disrupting the routine life in areas where the number of cases is low.

Studying lockdowns around the world has allowed us to conclude that they are a proven tool for reducing the rate of infection, provided that it is kept in place long enough, that citizens follow the guidelines, and that the type of lockdown befits the reason for its imposition.

The types of lockdowns and restrictions commonly seen include full curfew, night curfew, crowd prevention by closing schools and entertainment venues, setting traffic restrictions within and to the lockdown area (red cities). Bear in mind the effectiveness of a lockdown is measured in relation to its purpose, and based on the participation of the citizens. We also observe that the closer the introduction of the lockdown is to the detection of the outbreak, the faster the lockdown is likely to end.


Below is a simple classification of lockdowns based on their purpose, along with their main characteristics, and examples around the world to better illustrate their adaptation in various contexts.


1- Lockdowns and restrictions to reduce infection rates in the population

Properties: Long-term lockdowns aimed at lowering the high infection rate and maintaining a low rate over time. Typically introduced when a significant increase in infections occurs in a particular country or region, and after other measures have failed to stop the outbreak.


Conditions for the success of the lockdown: Public cooperation, information, enforcement, economic and social assistance. During the first wave, a full nationwide curfew was common in many countries. During the second wave, we saw more instructions to avoid non-essential exits from home, to close businesses, restaurants and entertainment venues (fully or only at night), and to restrict the transition between areas within the country to prevent spreading.


Duration of lockdown: Most cases show that only a long lockdown (lasting one month or more) leads to a decrease in the rate of infection.



  • South Africa: The first lockdown was introduced in March 2020, and was lifted after approximately one month due to economic pressure. The lockdown failed to lower the rate of infection. In July 2020, a second one-month lockdown was imposed, which included a night curfew, school lockdowns, a ban on visiting other households or buying alcohol. The rate of infection has dropped significantly.


  • Australia: In the state of Victoria, the lockdown began with stricter restrictions for six weeks. The lockdown was extended and restrictions were added because it did not reduce the rate of infection.


  • Spain: In March 2020, a general lockdown was imposed. In May 2020, gradual easing of restrictions began and lasted about a month and a half, until the lockdown was lifted fully. In the districts of Catalonia and Galicia, a partial lockdown was introduced in July 2020 – residents were asked to stay home and gatherings were banned. In August 2020, restrictions were added in Spain – prohibiting smoking and drinking, closing nightclubs.


  • Argentina: A lockdown was imposed in the country during the first wave (March 2020), and was gradually lifted after two months, except for the capital city (Buenos Aires). Infection rates did not fall as expected, but after the restrictions were lifted, infection rated rose uncontrollably.


  • Israel: During the first wave (March 2020), a full lockdown was introduced in Israel, which included a ban on gatherings, leaving home for essential needs or 100 meters only. By the end of April 2020, the lockdown was gradually lifted.


Variable attitudes toward different areas according to infection rates:


  • California: Imposition of various restrictions in each county according to its infection rate.


  • India: A full lockdown was imposed in the first wave (end of March 2020) and lasted two months, but partial lockdowns were subsequently introduced in the various countries according to its infection rate.


  • Italy: At the end of February 2020, a number of Covid-19 cases were discovered in Italy, and the government decided to divide the country into three regions, where different restrictions would be imposed depending on the rate of infection. In areas where the rate of infection was high (red zones), a full lockdown was imposed, with residents allowed to leave their homes only to purchase food and medicine.


  • Israel: The “traffic light” plan – color ranking cities (green, orange or red) based on the infection rate. In June 2020, restrictions were imposed and partial lockdowns were imposed on cities where the rate of infection was high. In September 2020, a night lockdown was imposed on 40 settlements.


Reducing infection in cities


  • Antwerp, Belgium: Most of the infections in the country were concentrated in Antwerp, and a night lockdown was imposed by the end of July 2020. Residents could not exit the city. With the lowering of the infection rate, a number of restrictions have been lifted.


  • Aberdeen, Scotland: In the beginning of August 2020, restaurants and bars were closed, and traffic to and from the county was restricted.


Failed lockdowns


  • Peru: A full lockdown during the first wave (March 2020) lasted three months, but did not lower the infection rates. Immediately after it was lifted, the infections rose significantly. The lockdown failed due to high density of residents, frequent visits to crowded markets, frequent use of public transport, use of cash, crowded houses and crowded public spaces.



2 – Lockdowns to prevent future outbreaks

Properties: A specific tool for preventing gathering in events which are known in advance, such as holidays, national events, festivals or local gatherings.


Conditions for the success of the lockdown: Specific adjustment to the type of event, the various aspects of the population, the date and location of the expected gathering.


Duration of lockdown: This is a short and focused lockdown. Its duration usually matches that of the expected event.



  • Oman, Jordan: To prevent the crowded public and private spaces expected on Eid al-Adha, a night curfew was imposed during the holiday, and traveling between the country’s provinces was banned. As a result, infection rates have dropped significantly.


  • Greece: In August, night-restrictions were imposed on tourist islands and Athens – closing bars and restaurants, and canceling celebrations and festivals.


  • USA: Cancellation of Independence Day celebrations (4th of July), closing of parks.


  • Israel: Short lockdowns were introduced on Passover, Memorial Day, IDF Independence Day and the new year’s holidays.



3 – Local lockdowns to acquire time for outbreaks control

Properties: Preventing transmission from an area with high infection rate to other areas in the country. This demands concentrated efforts in problem areas in order to buy more time for epidemiological investigation and detection of chains of infection.


Conditions for the success of the lockdown: Identification of the virus exposures.


Duration of lockdown: Two to three weeks.



  • China: Imposition of lockdowns with different characteristics in areas where local infection is detected. Average duration of lockdowns is two to three weeks. The purpose of the lockdown was to stop the infection, while locating the patients and the chains of infection.


  • Auckland, New Zealand: After 100 days without infection, a number of cases were discovered within a family. A full and immediate lockdown was imposed on the entire city for 12 days.


  • Diego, South Korea: Outbreak of epidemic in the city following a religious group member who attended multi-participant events. In April, most of the patients in the country were residents of the city of Diego. Full lockdown was not imposed, but significant restrictions were imposed instead – restricting traffic, closing parks, closing military bases and postponing the start of the school year. The government shared all the information with the residents, which led to full cooperation of the residents.


  • Israel: Imposing lockdowns in ultra-Orthodox and Arab settlements. Due to the unique properties of the communities, these settlements required epidemiological investigation to cut off chains of infection within the communities.




  • Italy’s response to Covid-19 outbreak, Corona Information and National Information Center, 11.04.2020.


  • Management of a local lockdown in the face of an outbreak of lessons learned from the South Korean authorities’ response to the spread of the virus in the city of Diego, Corona National Information and Knowledge Center, 12.04.2020.


  • Lockdowns around the world change in nature in accordance with their purpose, the Corona National Information and Knowledge Center for the Campaign, 10.09.2020.

SYN-RG-Ai are experts in the field of crisis management, with an emphasis on COVID-19.

Avraham (Avi) Cohen

Avraham (Avi) Cohen

Co-Founder, SYN-RG-Ai Integrative Solutions for Smart Cities management. Colonel (ret.) after 30 years as commander at IDF C5i Branch, cyber defense and Electronic Warfare.

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