Coronavirus: World's strictest lockdowns as COVID-19 continues to ravage countries

While Kiwis head to international test rugby matches, stroll around town, and prepare for the upcoming summer music festival season, others around the world continue to face harsh COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns.

The University of Oxford's COVID-19 Government Response Stringency Index (GRSI) spotlights how countries are tackling the pandemic and provides a 0-100 scale to show their relative strictness. It's based on nine response indicators, including school closures, workplace closures, and travel bans.

For example, on October 7, New Zealand was given a value of 31.94. This was just before Auckland moved to alert level 1, bringing the full country down to the level with the fewest domestic restrictions. 

The only major restriction remaining in place is our border closure.

Back in June and July, when the entire country was at alert level 1, Aotearoa had a value of 22.22. On the other hand, when the country was in a national lockdown in April, its value was 96.3.

So while New Zealand enjoys its current freedoms, which countries continue to face stringent restrictions?

According to the Index, as of Thursday Argentina had the strictest measures in the world with a value of 91.67. Its value peaked in April at 100 and has been in either the late 80s or 90s ever since. 

Worldometers reports the nation has more than 900,000 confirmed cases and 24,000 deaths. It's been commonly recording more than 10,000 cases a day since August, peaking on October 7 with 16,447 cases.

Over the past week, Argentina registered almost 100,000 new COVID-19 cases.

The high value given to Argentina will largely be due to a lockdown in the greater Buenos Aires area. While the country's national lockdown began being rolled back in May, the capital remained under restrictions and the lockdown has been extended numerous times ever since. 

A gradual loosening of those restrictions over time and the spread of cases from the capital to the provinces has seen cases skyrocket.

The Government late last week tightened restrictions on the movement of people in 18 provinces for two weeks due to the growth of COVID-19 cases. 

Those restrictions include a ban on indoor social gatherings, the closure of most cultural centres and cinemas. Any activities regarding tourism are also banned and anyone out in public is required to socially distance.

Face masks are also mandatory.

Panama, which Johns Hopkins University reports as having 120,802 confirmed COVID-19 cases, has the second-strictest measures in the world with a value of 87.04. A nationwide curfew remains in place between 11pm and 5am between Monday and Saturday, while the country is totally locked down on Sundays.

According to the GRSI, the Middle Eastern country of Oman and the northeast African nation of Eritrea, both measuring 86.11, have the world's third-equal strictest measures. On Friday, Oman, with 106,575 confirmed coronavirus cases, re-introduced a night-time ban on movement; enforcing an overnight closure of shops and public places between October 11 and 24.

According to the Eritrea Government website, a ban on commercial flights and public transport remains in place. Several business sectors, including hospitality businesses, also remain closed. That's despite the country, with a population of about 3.2 million, having only 414 confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins.

Measuring at 85.19 and with the fifth-strictest measures, Israel, which has 294,031 cases, last month imposed a second nationwide lockdown after a resurgence in coronavirus infections.