Police conversing with people during a lockdown in Benidorm, Spain


The term lockdown was used by the media and the World Health Organization (WHO) to describe the action taken in January 2020 by the government of China to restrict movements of people in order to control the outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Wuhan.

When Italian authorities imposed a strict quarantine order in the northern part of the country, the media also used the term lockdown, which was used for Spain and France, as well as other countries around the world. Although it is not a technical term in public health or laws, the media continued to use lockdown to describe the actions taken by these governments.

As the lockdowns were expanded to other countries, there was a shift in the definitions. Measures are less restrictive and other terms emerged in attempts to differentiate from the most restrictive measure in China.