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Not all lockdowns are equally repressive: Top 5 strictest lockdowns

The world is in lockdown and that is not just tough for our well-being, but also for our wallets. All over the world, economies are taking massive hits. But, not all lock-downs are implemented equally . So, the economic hit won’t be either. This post covers the top five strictest, economy crushing, lockdowns.

The article in video format for all the visual people out there.

So, what are the top five strictest lockdowns?

Let me first go into how I put together this list. I did so with the help of the stringency index that has been compiled by the University of Oxford. To get to a top 5, I observed all days that these countries had a max stringency lockdown in effect, meaning that they score the full 100 points in the stringency index.

What is a 100 point lockdown?

It means that only essential businesses are allowed to remain open and people have to stay in their homes unless they are an essential worker or if they need to buy food or medicine. The implication is that there will be no morning jog, no visiting relatives, no leisurely stroll, no not even walking the dog.

But, there are many countries with 100 point lockdowns. So, how to pick a top five? For that, I just counted how many days these countries had the strictest form of lockdown in place and picked the five countries which had them the longest. Between these countries the differences in days are not that big. So, to order them from super strict to even stricter, I also took country specific factors such as heavy enforcement, narrowly defining what is essential, and financial repression into account.

With that being said, let’s get to the first country on the list.

5 Rwanda

Not surprisingly, Rwanda was quick to act and is the country that has been in some form of lockdown for the longest on the African continent. However, their 100% hard lockdown has been going on 30 days now and is only projected to end on the 30th of April.

Some notable developments for Rwanda are that they have started court hearings by on-line, are using drones to catch lockdown transgressors, and the government has sent out food to 20.000 people Rwandans who have been negatively affected. Now that is really something other nations can learn from.

4 Guatemala

Guatemala initially appeared at the top of my list because it has been in a 100% lockdown for 34 days already. That is the longest of all countries on this list. Why is it not higher on the list then? Well mainly because the lockdowns of the next countries on the list are even stricter.

3 Serbia

Like Rwanda, Serbia has been in 100% lockdown for 30 days now.

What makes their lockdown stand out is that there are some extra strict measures on senior citizens, who are only allowed to leave the house to go grocery shopping at certain hours. Furthermore, there are several reports that the government is using this crisis to specifically target journalists and government critics. Most notably, the state has arrested musician Jovana Popovic, who just happens to also be the author of a popular anti-regime song.

2 Lebanon

Lebanon has now been in the strictest lockdown phase for 33 days. But what makes their lockdown extra tough, is that they went into it in the middle of a full blown financial crisis. This made the strict lockdown tougher on its citizens as they did not have the financial buffers to deal with it. And while there were already capital controls in place, meaning that citizens could withdraw a maximum of a hundred dollars (foreign currency) daily. Now, that has practically been reduced to zero.

1 South Africa

Credit: Gerrit Jordaan

Speaking of financial buffers, many South Africans never had any buffers to begin with. Nonetheless, the South African government has implemented one of the strictest of strict lockdowns known to man which has now been going on for 33 days.

Not only were all non-essential businesses forced to close, the government has a very strict interpretation of what is essential. For example, prepared food is not considered essential. Hence, you cannot order a hot pizza to be delivered to your door while ordering a box of cold groceries is acceptable. Furthermore, even though supermarkets are allowed to be open, they are not allowed to sell non-essential items. That means that supermarkets have taped off whole isles, such as bakeware, and have been fined for selling roasted chicken.

And while Amazon is seeing increased business all around the globe, it’s South African counterpart -–Takealot — — is not allowed to sell anything but food and personal protective equipment.

If that wasn’t strict enough. The country has forbidden the sale of both alcohol and cigarettes. To prevent any liquor from ending up in domestic hands through the backdoor, the most important alcohol exports such as wine and port have been forbidden. That is a heavy economic hit for one of the world’s biggest exporters of wine.

Why did they prohibit alcohol in the first place? Well it hopes that this will improve both the immune system of South Africans plus that it will reduce domestic violence, and crime. And while there were indications of those last two working in the short run now, the people are growing weary, and, not surprisingly, several liquor stores have already been stormed and looted by crowds.

What is next?

So, all those wondering whether only China could do draconian lockdowns now have their answer. What is notable is that the countries on the list are not the most wealthy. Therefore, it is important to develop an exit strategy. In poorer countries, an easy start would be a digital pass for people to prove that they are either immune to the disease or have recently been tested. With promising initiatives such as Covi-id rapidly being developed, let’s hope the world can move beyond 100 point lockdowns sooner rather than later.

Notable omissions

With the list concluded, let me quickly mention some notable omissions. Before compiling the list, I would have expected Italy, Spain and China to make it. But, China did not make it because only parts (Wuhan) of it had a very strict lockdown. Furthermore, in Italy you could still stretch your legs outside and in Spain you are allowed to walk the dog.



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Joeri Schasfoort

Joeri Schasfoort


Researcher @ University of Cape Town & Online Teacher @ Money&Macro | Passionate about Agent-Based Modelling, Central Banking, Finance and Macroeconomics.