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What’s the difference between a shelter-in-place and a lockdown?

The terms “shelter-in-place” and “lockdown” are getting thrown around in today’s news coverage of the coronavirus, but they aren’t as interchangeable as they might seem. Those under a shelter-in-place order still have a modicum of mobility, while those in lockdown aren’t supposed to leave their homes outside of specific circumstances. 

Some nations, such as Italy and India, have gone on complete lockdown to combat COVID-19. This means they can’t leave their home except to buy groceries, walk their dogs, and go to doctor’s appointments. In Italy, some concessions have been made to allow for jogs and walks around the block, as long as families maintain social distancing. As for India, parts of the lockdown are under consideration to be lifted, to help farmers and markets.

In the U.S., many states are already under shelter-in-place orders, while others have left it up to local governments to decide. These guidelines are similar to lockdowns, with people allowed out of the home for “essential tasks and errands” which have varying definitions by state and county. 

There are fewer legal consequences for those leaving the home for non-essential tasks under a shelter-in-place order than there are for a lockdown, with many states issuing shelter-in-place orders leaving the definition of “essential” vague. 

On April 8, the city of Wuhan, China, where the virus was first diagnosed in January, ended its 76-day lockdown

Sources: Politico, Time, Nature, CNN


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