9 mins

8 different coronavirus lockdown experiences around the world

Wondering what COVID-19 lockdown is like in other countries? From France and Spain to Singapore and Nepal, here's what it's really like to be locked down all around the globe...

Singapore is on circuit breaker lockdown (Shutterstock)

Lockdown in Morocco

Lockdown in snowy Imil, Morocco (Alice Morrison)

Lockdown in snowy Imil, Morocco (Alice Morrison)

I am seeing out lockdown in my home in Imlil, a tiny village in the High Atlas Mountains in Morocco. I live in a small flat over the cow byre in a family compound of about 25 people.

Lockdown here is much stricter than the UK and we are only allowed out for essential shopping a couple of times a week and have to wear masks. Key workers like farmers can still go out to their fields and of course you can seek medical care if you have to. 

Alice in Imil, Morocco (Alice Morrison)

Alice in Imil, Morocco (Alice Morrison)

Alice hiking in Imil before the lockdown came into place (Alice Morrison)

Alice hiking in Imil before the lockdown came into place (Alice Morrison)

My house is built into the mountain side and I have a magnificent view of the peaks around me, sadly, though, for the moment I have to just look and not hike.

The low lying constant worry about my parents in Edinburgh and about money hums in my ear and the lack of freedom is an aching loss but I am grateful to be in such a beautiful place, to have a terrace and a yard and to be sharing this time with my neighbours in the compound.  

I have been surprised at how good everyone has been at keeping to the letter and the spirit of lockdown, non-one is trying to cheat the system. “We are in the hands of God,” my neighbours tell me.

I spend my days as I always do between expeditions, writing and pitching story ideas out there - but the economic uncertainty has impacted me too. As long as my family and friends are safe, though, I am fine.

When I was walking across the Sahara, I had to learn patience, little did I realise what a valuable lesson that would be and how soon I would get to practice it. Stay safe everyone!

Alice Morrison’s latest book Adventures in Morocco is out now in paperback and on e-book

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Lockdown in Singapore

Singapore is in a 'circuit breaker' period (Shutterstock)

Singapore is in a 'circuit breaker' period (Shutterstock)

I'm currently isolating with my husband on the 15th floor of a housing block in Ghim Moh, Singapore. It averages about 32 degrees most days, which means the fans are constantly whirring in our two-bedroom apartment.

Singapore technically isn't in 'lockdown' but is undergoing what the government calls a 'circuit breaker' period, which is effectively the same thing. Schools, bars, restaurants and most businesses are closed, so everyone is working from home.

We can leave the house for essential trips and exercise, but you have to wear a mask at all times or receive an on-the-spot fine of SG$300 (£168 GBP), unless you're partaking in 'strenuous exercise'. The government has also recently passed a law banning gatherings of any size, at home or in public.

Olivia at Changi Airport, before the coronavirus outbreak (Olivia Lee)

Olivia at Changi Airport, before the coronavirus outbreak (Olivia Lee)

One of the strangest things to see is the empty Hawker Centres. These open-sided food courts are normally full from dawn to dusk, with long queues at all of the stalls. Now, there's red and white tape on all the chairs and tables, and just a handful of vendors are still open for takeaways.

I try and head there to pick up a takeaway lunch or dinner most days as I know the Hawkers need the business. Plus, it's still cheaper than cooking at home – a huge bowl of wanton noodles only costs SG$3 (£1.70 GBP) – which makes it worth standing in the beating sun with a thick cotton mask covering half my face.

Ultimately, the biggest surprise about the whole experience is how long Singapore managed to go before we found ourselves in this position. We're currently in week two of 'circuit breaker'; only 10 days ago I was eating out with friends at a restaurant, going into the office like normal.

For a long time, case numbers were stable at around 300, with just a handful of deaths. When you consider that the country had its first cases back in January, over Chinese New Year, that's pretty impressive.

The numbers have spiked a lot recently from 'imported cases', as governments around the world urged people to return to their home countries. The circuit breaker is only intended to continue until 4 May, but the general feeling among friends and colleagues is that it will take much longer.

For now, I am just taking it one day (and one Hawker meal) at a time. 

Lockdown in Nepal

People are in lockdown in Nepal (Shutterstock)

People are in lockdown in Nepal (Shutterstock)

I’m at Tribhuvan International Airport waiting to board the last repatriation flight from Kathmandu bound for London Stansted.

The lockdown for those of us with a dependable income and spacious accommodation is fine, except imported wine and good beers are becoming difficult to find. Small vegetable shops have been allowed to open and some supermarkets trade for a few hours a day, but we seldom know what will be open when, and what stock there will be. There ARE plenty of loo rolls, though.

Generally, short local trips on foot or by bicycle are allowed but very few vehicles may travel – there are no taxis operating. I haven't been asked for ID but Nepalis often are. Those who are unable to work are hurting and we’ve come across huge queues of people waiting to receive handouts of rice, lentils and soap.

(Dr Jane Wilson-Howarth)

(Dr Jane Wilson-Howarth)

Since I am here with my husband, things were fine for us and we have socialised a bit with our nearest neighbours only. It is tantalising not to be able to be out and helping. I have though been contributing to a new local website aiming to dispel myths and misinformation and reassure people – because there is fear on the street.

When we took the Embassy bus to the airport today, I was shocked to see rows of blue UN tents laid out near the sports stadium – these will be used to isolate people with symptoms suspicious of COVID-19. So far, only 16 cases have been confirmed.

I’ve been surprised that people here are observing the lockdown so well, although lockdowns aren’t unusual in Nepal; they happen often due to political strikes, the Indian blockade, and of course the earthquakes are still a bitter memory.

Read Dr Jane Wilson-Howarth's Wanderlust articles or follow her on Instagram

Lockdown in France

The Deux-Sevres department is a rural part of France (Shutterstock)

The Deux-Sevres department is a rural part of France (Shutterstock)

We are in a rural part of France: the Deux-Sèvres department, south of the Loire. It's similar to being in rural Wales, or Devon perhaps. We are surrounded by farms, windmills and watermills.

Our house is an old watermill, on the River Argenton, with about five acres of land. We bought it five years ago. It is nature’s paradise, and we love shutting the gate and being in the midst of it. That has not changed since the lockdown.

President Macron has just delivered an address saying the lockdown will continue as it is until 11 May, when there will be another review.

Lesley Bertram is locked down in France

Lesley Bertram is locked down in France

So far, we have not had difficulty buying food or other goods. Loo roll was scarce in the initial days, but not a problem now - thank goodness. Why loo roll?!

If you do go out, you have to complete a form each time, giving your name, address, place of birth, and describing where you are going and for what purpose. You need to state the time and date each time you leave your property, and carry the form with you. You can go out to shop for necessities, and you can go out for walks or exercise, but not further than one km from your home. You need to be alone or with someone that you live with.

The French are serious about the virus, and our local supermarket has hand sanitiser and gloves for everyone that enters. One person from each family is allowed to shop.

Everyone around us seems to be coping well so far. I haven’t heard of anyone here contracting the virus.

Last night, we spent an hour with our lovely French neighbours social distancing via the river. We sat on our riverbank and they sat in their boat! It was great to chat with them. They have three young children and finding the most difficult part trying to work from home themselves, while home schooling their kids.  

We miss our family and friends in the UK but it’s been a time of reconnection via other means, and we are enjoying and making the most of that.

- Lesley & Chris Bertram

Lockdown in New Zealand

Greg Wilson is locked down in the town of Oamaru, New Zealand (Shutterstock)

Greg Wilson is locked down in the town of Oamaru, New Zealand (Shutterstock)

I'm living in the coastal 'Steampunk' town of Oamaru, New Zealand, under Level Four of the COVID-19 Alert rules. In brief, all kiwis are in quarantine, in their bubbles (family units) at home, with outdoor activities restricted to our local walkable area.

The only out is for the now weekly excursion (essential trip) to the supermarket which has been turned into a security controlled, two-metre safety zones with screen protected cashiers (cards only please, no cash accepted). In fairness, the public in Oamaru have taken on the new lifestyle well and are following the safety/hygiene measures seriously. 

Greg has become more creative in the kitchen since the lockdown (Greg Wilson)

Greg has become more creative in the kitchen since the lockdown (Greg Wilson)

As it is, supermarkets and corner stores are the only shops open to the public. Queues are now the new norm. Now we are three weeks in, and the panic buying of the first week has passed, the food, sanitiser and toilet paper shortages have mostly abated and I've actually found myself eating healthier - now the local takeaways are closed.

I've discovered long lost items in the freezer and herbs and spices long neglected as I search and try online recipes to feed myself and my teenager; one positive for the crisis, I'm a better cook. 

Another thing I've noticed is, generally people are being nicer to each other, albeit at a two-metre distance. It's also good to see a lot of family "bubbles' out walking and the locals are really tidying up their gardens. I've found the bonding time with my son really rewarding. Unfortunately, my contact with my two daughters is limited, as they’re residing at their mother’s residence.

I am one of the lucky ones though; I work for a business deemed an essential industry, so I do get to go to work each day. Work is another group of bubbles with employees keeping to their own team areas and two-metre zones within those areas.

Unfortunately, there are many kiwis who are out of work under Level Four and struggling on the new government subsidy of $585 a week.  It will be a long road to recovery with tourism being wiped out within 24 hours of the Level Four implementation.

The burning question now is when the Level Four will be dropped. Fortunately, new confirmed cases are dropping, as confirmed from the most viewed website in NZ these days. Friends of mine would rather the Level Four was extended until no new cases are occurring. 

Until then, we live in a new two-metre world and my son now 'enjoys' education online. 

- Greg Wilson

Lockdown in Spain 

An empty Madrid during the COVID-19 lockdown (Shutterstock)

An empty Madrid during the COVID-19 lockdown (Shutterstock)

When you think of the Spanish capital you envision a lively, bustling city. Undulating streets lined with bars and bodegas, chatter and laughter flowing with tidal force through the plazas. Quite simply, the Spanish love being outside.

Whether socialising over a coffee in the morning or a caña (beer) at night, the atmosphere encourages you to be on the streets. Having moved here at the beginning of the year, I was particularly looking forward to the blossoming of spring and the warmer weather that makes living here so enticing.

Lockdown has been particularly brutal in Madrid whose inhabitants embody gregariousness. The city is in its fifth week of quarantine, which began officially on 14 March. The same day, the MSF (Doctors Without Borders), an organisation known for operating in war zones, were deployed in Madrid and Barcelona to support the medical services. Life moved indoors.

Nikhil in Spain before the lockdown (Nikhil Murphy)

Nikhil in Spain before the lockdown (Nikhil Murphy)

As was the reaction in numerous cities across Europe, the first aisles to empty were cleaning supplies and loo rolls, but here the lockdown is more severe.

Even parks are closed and jogging on the street is forbidden. Madrileños today can only leave their home to walk dogs or buy food and medicine. And so the birds have become the noisiest neighbours, singing with carefree frivolity.

Yet community spirit is just as infectious. Spaniards take to their balconies every evening at 8pm to applaud frontline workers. Two floors above, a woman cries out buenas noches, to bid the city goodnight.

- Nikhil Murphy

Lockdown in Lebanon

One of Beirut's major highways under lockdown (Paul Clammer)

One of Beirut's major highways under lockdown (Paul Clammer)

I am writing this from my apartment in Beirut, listening to Easter Sunday prayers. Lebanon's churches are closed, along with its mosques, but for the last half an hour there has been a pickup truck with loudspeakers covered in palm fronds driving around our neighbourhood, broadcasting prayers to the faithful unable to attend mass. This is the new sound of Beirut. 

The lockdown came earlier to Lebanon than most countries. There had been rumours that restaurants and bars would close, but it literally happened before our eyes one a night when we were out with friends – we had dinner at one place, but when we went on for drinks at a favourite bar, it had just pulled down its shutters.

In terms of restrictions, we're allowed to leave the house to shop for food and take exercise. Our local mini-market operates a 'one in one out' approach to controlling customer numbers, while the larger supermarkets have guards on the doors scanning temperatures and providing disinfected shopping trolleys.

Paul during the Beirut lockdown (Paul Clammer)

Paul during the Beirut lockdown (Paul Clammer)

There's an 8pm citywide curfew, but our local shawarma and falafel takeaway still operates in the daytime, even if you do have to shout your order through a window, retreat a few paces and wait to be called back so that a disembodied gloved hand can pass you your food.

Home delivery is thriving. The mini-market lets us WhatsApp our shopping list if we choose, while mobile food apps send notifications about hygiene processes and how to safely take delivery from your driver.

For the most part, the lockdown seems well observed and though official testing numbers are low, there's a sense that the Lebanese government did well to take such quick action.

Far less swift has been action to financially support those in need. Lebanon was in dire economic straits even before the outbreak, and there are real worries for those living on the margins, as well as the country's Syrian refugees and Palestinian communities.

Social distancing and even simple hygiene are enormous challenges for many here. My own lockdown is one of relative comfort, but in a country like Lebanon it's easy to remember that there are those who are facing real hardship. The next moves for the government are going to be the trickiest to manoeuvre.

Read Paul Clammer's Wanderlust articles and follow him on Twitter

Lockdown in Denmark

Samuel is on lockdown in Copenhagen (Shutterstock)

Samuel is on lockdown in Copenhagen (Shutterstock)

I am living in Copenhagen with my wife who is six months pregnant. I am currently sitting at the dinner table looking out of my window from the second floor, while my wife is laying in the bedroom reading. First and foremost, we are safe and healthy.

Denmark is slowly beginning to open up again as schools (from first to fifth grade), kindergartens and nurseries opened last week, and hairdressers, physiotherapists and chiropractors are opening up this coming week.

Denmark is at the beginning of a slow and careful opening of the country. That’s mainly because our (death) numbers, although still tragic, are looking good. The Danish people have been good at isolating (though the government haven’t forced us, only encouraged us), and taking the utmost care.

I think the numbers are looking that good partly because the Danish culture (and Danes in general) are not that outgoing and engaging. That might sound a bit negative, but I mean this in the best possible way. Danes are good at staying home, and we have a great sense of responsibility for the common good in our society. 

Samuel Hofmeister Hughes is a teacher in Denmark

Samuel Hofmeister Hughes is a teacher in Denmark

I am a teacher in the fifth grade and greeted all 23 of my pupils back to school on Friday. It was really good to see them, and it was very good for them to see each other again. They had actually missed school! We drove them by bus, where they sat divided and with as much distance between each other as possibly to the park. They played (only in groups of four) and laughed in the sun the entire day.

But it’s not the same school as the one they left. There can only be ten pupils in each classroom, because they have to sit two metres apart. That means that four pupils are forced to stay at home each day. The pupils are encouraged not to be physical in any way, the schoolyard is divided and we (the teachers) have to make sure that each pupil washes their hands every two hours. And that’s just to mention a few of the new rules. It’s a different school. A corona school.

A sign urges people to social distance in Copenhagen (Shutterstock)

A sign urges people to social distance in Copenhagen (Shutterstock)

There haven’t been any shortages in Denmark. We can go out and be with up to ten people at a time as long as we social distance and make no physical contact. Most people don’t meet more than five together though. Employees are working from home, and all universities are doing online education.

The border is closed, and the amount of flights have declined by 90%. The government have been putting out help packages to all inflicted by the crisis, but we still see unemployment rise. The Danish stock market crashed by almost 25% but is now slowly recovering. This crisis is going to leave its mark for the next few years if not longer.

As a couple expecting a child in a time like this, you start to wonder. The crisis gives perspectives on the world we live in and how we live. In both good ways and bad.

A quiet street in a usually bustling part of Copenhagen (Shutterstock)

A quiet street in a usually bustling part of Copenhagen (Shutterstock)

To start with the bad. It surprises me how fragile our society is. That in the year of 2020 a rough virus can shock the world and nearly tear it apart, that’s terrifying. Why aren’t we stronger? The first thing countries did was secure the national state. Close the border. Secure our people. Where was the common effort to deal with this crisis? Where was the unity across the borders?

On the positive side, we can change! We can change how we live, how we consume, how we socialise, from one day to the next. That gives hope for a brighter future where big changes need to happen. It has been great to experience how people have reached out, helped and cared for each other. In the time of a crisis people pull together.

We have also seen politicians react and act in the common good. No endless discussions on minor details. No talking round corners. No keeping up appearances for the political party. That’s how politics should be!

My final wish would be that this crisis would start a debate on how we live and how we decide to carry on moving forwards. Are we on the right path? Could we change things for the better?

I don’t think there is a better time for a deep long look in the mirror than now. For our sake and for the generations to come.   

- Samuel Hofmeister Hughes

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