Coronavirus: Who's still in lockdown and who isn't?

In just six weeks, New Zealand went from having one of the strictest lockdowns in the world to one of the loosest.

For many of us, life is somewhat back to normal - though the border's still sealed shut, we're now allowed to do pretty much anything we did before the pandemic hit. 

Many other countries haven't been so lucky, with lockdowns still in place or restrictions coming back on as new waves of the virus hit.

Here's who remains under lockdown and who's tasting freedom - with or without the threat of COVID-19.

Full lockdowns still in effect

The Americas have been hard-hit by the pandemic, with regional powers the US and Brazil suffering the consequences of poor leadership and only haphazard attempts to halt the virus' spread. 

In contrast, a number of Caribbean and central American nations went into strict lockdowns - and many remain there. 

According to the Government Response Stringency Index (GRSI), a tracker developed by researchers at Oxford University, Cuba's lockdown is presently the toughest in the world - ranked at 100/100. The Communist-run nation of 11 million has reported 83 deaths since the first case was detected on March 11, but with none in the last week, so there's talk of lifting the lockdown. 

The darker the colour, the stricter the current lockdown.
The darker the colour, the stricter the current lockdown. Photo credit: Our World in Data

Public transport has been suspected, the borders remain closed, schools are still shut and it's mandatory to wear masks in public. Breaking the rules is punishable by fines and prison sentences, and it's been reported trials involving lockdown rule-breakers have been broadcast on TV as a deterrent. 

There are worrying signs a second wave of infections are on the way however, so Cubans won't find out what limited freedoms they might win back until next week. 

Honduras and El Salvador's lockdowns rank alongside Cuba's, but they're both still experiencing their first wave of cases. In Honduras there have been reports of military force being used to enforce the lockdown, including at least one death as a result. El Salvador's lockdown has also been criticised as being over the top, with human rights groups concerned it's being used to limit government accountability.

At its most stringent, New Zealand's lockdown rated 96/100 on the GRSI. Other countries still in the 90s include Eritrea, Guatemala, Morocco, Kenya, Iraq, Nepal, Argentina and Guyana. New Zealand's score was last updated a week ago, when we were still in level 2, and was 33/100. 

Lifting restrictions

Many countries have in the past month sought to ease restrictions, hoping to salvage their economies while preventing a second wave of COVID-19.

In the US, where there was no countrywide lockdown but each state did its own thing, cases have begun rising in the past few weeks in states which opened up, including Texas, California and Arizona. Health experts say deaths in the US are projected to bottom out at around 500 a day in August before rising again in September and October, after the northern hemisphere summer.

How tough some countries' lockdowns have been.
How tough some countries' lockdowns have been. Photo credit: Our World in Data

China tried lifting restrictions in April, dropping from 82 to 57 on the GRSI, but put them back on a few weeks later after an uptick in cases.

South Korea has also had to backtrack, reintroducing restrictions in late May after a cluster of new infections. Saudi Arabia loosened its restrictions in late May, which has led to a massive surge in cases. 

India's given up on its strict lockdown, progressively reintroducing freedoms since late April, despite its confirmed case death numbers rising inexorably. 

Some countries have managed to lift a few restrictions without yet suffering a jump in new cases, particularly in Europe - such as Germany, Italy, France and Spain. The UK has lifted some restrictions and the rate of new cases is dropping, albeit at a slower pace than their neighbours. 

Most of Europe's present lockdowns now rank between 40 and 80 on the GRSI.

Australia's lockdown wasn't as strict as New Zealand's, peaking at 73/100, and while their health and economic outcomes have been largely comparable to ours so far, they continue to have restrictions scoring 59 on the GRSI. 

Never bothered/minimal restrictions

Some countries either didn't bother implementing a lockdown, or put in only mild restrictions. The most infamous is perhaps Sweden, which tried a 'herd immunity' approach which its health authorities have now admitted was a mistake, with thousands dead and the number of new cases still rising.

Its reluctantly implemented restrictions now rank 46/100 on the GRSI, tighter than New Zealand's.

Turkmenistan, led by an authoritarian regime, has reported zero cases. But it's still implemented controls at the border to stop it getting in, as well as travel restrictions internally. 

Japan managed to flatten its curve without a major lockdown, which peaked at around 47/100 on the GRSI. Nor did it implement widespread tracking apps or testing. 

"Just by looking at death numbers, you can say Japan was successful," Mikihito Tanaka, a professor at Waseda University and a member of a public advisory group of experts on the virus told Time magazine. "But even experts don't know the reason."

It's been suggested Japan's culture of wearing masks and low obesity rates helped see off the threat, as well as an efficient contact tracing system which sprung into action as early as January.