Australia is starting to lift some coronavirus restrictions. What are other countries doing?

Queensland and Western Australia are relaxing some stay-at-home coronavirus measures, marking the first winding back of lockdown restrictions in Australia.

A man jogs through the usually busy Darling Harbour area in the CBD in Sydney, Thursday, April 2, 2020

A man jogs through the usually busy Darling Harbour area in the CBD in Sydney, Thursday, April 2, 2020 Source: AAP

As Australia continues to flatten its coronavirus curve, calls are mounting to start easing our shutdown measures.

Queensland and Western Australia took the first steps on Sunday, announcing they would relax some lower-risk restrictions next week.

It comes as around a third of the global population still lives under some form of coronavirus lockdown.

So when are some of the worst-affected countries expected to start reopening?

North America

The US has recorded more than 50,000 coronavirus-related fatalities in what is the world's deadliest outbreak.

The country, as a whole, has consistently been reporting more than 1,500 deaths per day for weeks.

Despite this, some states in the US are pushing ahead with opening up parts of the economy and easing off on various restrictions.

Some states have seen protests against lockdown measures taking place, with those involved saying they want to return to work and are concerned their rights are being eradicated by draconian restrictions.

Men protesting outside the Michigan State Capitol building in Lansing, Michigan against coronavirus restrictions.
Source: AP

Different states are at different points in their coronavirus journeys. Georgia, Oklahoma and Alaska are among those to start loosening lockdown orders.

Further north in Canada, businesses have been closed and workers have been at home since mid-March. On 15 April, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the restrictions would last for "many more weeks".

Meanwhile, Mexico, which has reported more than 1,200 coronavirus deaths and shut schools and non-essential businesses, is expected to keep its restrictions in place for at least a few more weeks. 


Italy was one of the first countries to implement a major shutdown when it locked down the whole country - nearly 60 million people - on 10 March and closed non-essential shops and businesses.  

It has already allowed some businesses to reopen, with more likely to follow on 4 May, but most restrictions remain in place.

Spain, which on Sunday had Europe's highest number of cases and second-highest number of deaths after Italy, began its near-nationwide lockdown in mid-March.

The shutdown, which Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has said will ease by region, has been extended until at least 9 May, though Spaniards could be allowed outdoors to exercise as early as 2 May.

France, which has seen more than 22,600 deaths, has flagged a reopening of businesses and a lifting of restrictions on non-essential travel starting 11 May. 

Britain, which passed 20,000 deaths on Sunday, is unlikely to change its lockdown measures for a few weeks.

It was slower to enforce lockdown measures than other European countries and has had its prime minister, Boris Johnson, in intensive care after he contracted COVID-19.

Businesses in Belgium will start opening on 4 May and schools on 18 May, however cafes and restaurants will not be permitted to open before 8 June.

Around 6,700 deaths had been recorded in the country of 11.4 million on Saturday – the highest rate per capita on the continent.

In Germany, where COVID-19 has claimed more than 5,000 lives, some shops have already reopened and schools are expected to follow suit from 4 May.

Police officers in Barcelona, Spain wearing face masks amid the coronavirus lockdown
Source: AP

Controversy in Sweden

Sweden, unlike most countries around the world, did not impose a large-scale lockdown.

It has, controversially, allowed larger gatherings of up to 50 people, some schools to remain open and eateries to serve customers. 

The country's method of countering the spread of coronavirus relies on citizens voluntarily practicing social distancing and has been criticised by some.

Sweden has recorded more than 16,700 cases of COVID-19 and more than 2,000 deaths.

By comparison, neighbouring Norway and Denmark, which have taken much stronger approaches, have much lower numbers.

The latter nations have both started lifting their restrictions, including allowing kids back to school.

People gather in a park in Stockholm, Sweden, Wednesday April 22, 2020
Source: AP


The world's first major lockdowns began in China back in January.

The lockdown in Wuhan, where the coronavirus was first recorded, has served as a model for countries battling the coronavirus around the world.

The city began reopening on 8 April after a 76-day period where most people were unable to leave their homes, reportedly even to go grocery shopping or bury dead loved ones. 

However, many areas in China are cautious about lifting the majority of restrictions too soon. There are concerns about a possible second wave of cases amid a jump in imported cases, particularly from Russia. 

Japan ramped up its shutdown measures after declaring a national state of emergency on 7 April

Enacted for a month and covering more than 40 per cent of the total population, it gives regional governments power to urge people to stay home and close businesses, but without force or imposing punishments.

A man in a restaurant in Kamisu, Japan  on April 23, 2020.
Source: AP

After a spike last month, South Korea's coronavirus outbreak has slowed amid new border controls. Authorities have started relaxing some social distancing guidelines, but the campaign will remain until at least 5 May. 

Singapore, after initially drawing praise from other nations for the handling of its outbreak, has extended its partial lockdown by a month amid concerns it is in the midst of a second wave.

Despite only recording 12 deaths, with more than 12,600 cases the island city-state of 5.7 million people now has one of the highest infection rates in Asia.

In India, where more than 770 deaths have been recorded, some local shops outside of virus hotspots have been re-opened and rural farmers have been allowed to return to work.

But most of the country's shutdown restrictions - due to be lifted on 3 May and which only allow people out of their homes only to buy essentials - remain in place. 

New Zealand

New Zealand's lockdown measures, much stricter than Australia's, will be eased from Tuesday.

The country is preparing to move to at least 14 days of "level 3" lockdown measures, which will allow for schools to re-open, more businesses to function and for restaurants to re-open for delivery services only.

On 23 March, the government implemented a near nationwide lockdown, with particularly strong restrictions on business.

New arrivals to the country have been required to quarantine for a fortnight under measures similar to those in Australia.

And just as in Australia, officials are also hoping to use a tracking app to keep an eye on the spread of COVID-19.

On Sunday, New Zealand's death toll sat at 18.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others and gatherings are limited to two people unless you are with your family or household.

If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at

Published 26 April 2020 at 7:28pm
By Evan Young