Stay-at-home order

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A stay-at-home order, safer-at-home order or a movement control order (more common in Southeast Asia) is an order from a government authority to restrict movements of a population as a mass quarantine strategy for suppressing, or mitigating, an epidemic, or pandemic, by ordering residents to stay home except for essential tasks or to work in essential businesses. The distinction between such an order and quarantine is that quarantine is usually understood to involve isolating only selected people who are considered to be possibly infectious, rather than the entire population of an area. In many cases, outdoor activities are allowed. Non-essential businesses are either closed or adapted to working from home.[1] In some regions, it has been implemented as a round-the-clock curfew[2] or called a shelter-in-place order,[3] but it is not to be confused with a shelter in place situation.[4] Similar measures have been used around the world, but the term lockdown is used instead.[5] Some officials have a concern that the word lockdown may send a wrong message for people to incorrectly think that it includes door-to-door searching for infected people to be forced into quarantines similar to the Hubei lockdown.[6]


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.[7][8] 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.[9][10][11][12] 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.[13] 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.[5]

Many jurisdictions in the United States have referred to their stay-at-home orders by the slogan "Stay home, stay safe."

When the authorities in San Francisco Bay Area issued an order in March 2020 for residents to stay home to control the outbreak of COVID-19, they called it a shelter-in-place order.[14] People were not familiar with it as the term shelter in place had been used in other emergency situations such as an active shooter which would require seeking a safe place to hide within the same building that the person already occupies until the situation is resolved.[15] This caused confusion to the residents under the order on what exactly they are supposed to do.[16]

When Governor Gavin Newsom announced the state-wide order for California which would supersede the Bay Area's order on March 19, he used the term stay-at-home order instead.[17] Other US states started using the new term when they announced their statewide order.[18] In a press conference, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York criticized anyone using the term shelter-in-place for his stay-at-home order as it would invoke panic due to its association with active shooting situations or nuclear wars.[19]

Lockdowns in the United StatesEdit

In the United States and Canada, the term lockdown has been widely used in emergency preparedness. A lockdown procedure requires immediate actions in hiding and locking all doors. Additional actions may be taken such as turning off lights and staying away from windows.[20][21] Students in all grade levels around the country participate in lockdown drills on a regular basis.[22]

The word lockdown can also be associated with martial law to mean that people cannot leave their homes.[23] In an attempt to avoid confusion, Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago made a comment about the stay-at-home order of Illinois by trying to differentiate it from a lockdown or a martial law.[24]

When states, provinces, and counties across the United States and Canada issued an order to have residents to remain home, they either called it shelter-in-place order or stay-at-home order. It has been clarified that these orders are not lockdowns because residents are allowed to go in and out of their homes in limited circumstances.[25] Some jurisdictions have determined that there is a legal or practical distinction between the terms "stay-at-home" and "shelter-in-place".[26][27][28]


A sign in Rendsburg, Germany indicates that the playground is closed.


In the United States, the United States constitutional law gives a police power to the states. State governments can use this power within their own state. However, there is no clear authority for either the federal government or state governments to impose such a lockdown between states. In term of legality of an order, the government must be able to prove that the order advances a "compelling government interest" and the actions are narrow to specifically achieve that goal and they are not unnecessary broad.[29]


The scope of the lockdowns or stay-at-home orders can vary.[8] There is no universal definition of what is deemed essential. Some orders allow residents to come out for outdoor activities. When residents come out of the house, the social distancing rules are typically applied. Some examples of essential services are banks, gas stations, grocery stores, medical offices, pharmacies, and restaurants (without dining in).[1]

In more restrictive measures in some locations, they require residents to carry paperwork (i.e., appropriate proof of qualifications) in order to go out and perform essential tasks (i.e., supply chain infrastructure, food delivery, healthcare, law enforcement, etc.).[8][29][30]


Public official have been ambivalent about China's lockdown to combat COVID-19, first criticizing it as unethical and ineffective, and then later praising it.[29] Some officials insist that public trust is required for the orders to be effective; otherwise, the orders may be evaded.[29]

COVID-19 pandemicEdit

Numerous stay-at-home orders, curfews, quarantines, and similar restrictions were enforced globally in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.[31]

Countries and territories around the world have enforced lockdowns of varying degrees. Some include total movement control while others have enforced restrictions based on time. Mostly, only essential businesses are allowed to remain open. Schools, universities and colleges have closed either on a nationwide or local basis in 177 countries, affecting approximately 98.6 per cent of the world's student population.[32] 2020 Singaporean Circuit Breaker is an example of a lockdown due to COVID-19.[33][34]


  1. ^ a b "What You Can and Cannot Do During a Stay-at-Home or Shelter-in-Place Order". NBC Chicago. 2020-03-20. Retrieved 2020-03-21.
  2. ^ "City of Birmingham under Shelter in Place in order". WBRC. 2020-03-24. Retrieved 2020-03-24.
  3. ^ "Coronavirus stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders, by state". USA Today. 2020-03-30. Retrieved 2020-03-30.
  4. ^ Sedensky, Matt (2020-03-20). "In pandemic, word definitions shift and new lexicon emerges". AP News. Associated Press. Retrieved 2020-03-28.
  5. ^ a b Kottasová, Ivana (2020-03-17). "Coronavirus lockdowns: 24 hours of confusion around the world". CNN. Retrieved 2020-03-24.
  6. ^ Sedensky, Matt (2020-03-20). "In pandemic, word definitions shift and new lexicon emerges". The Associated Press. Retrieved 2020-03-24.
  7. ^ "Wuhan lockdown 'unprecedented', shows commitment to contain virus: WHO representative in China". Reuters. 2020-01-23. Retrieved 2020-03-21.
  8. ^ a b c "The 2019–2020 Novel Coronavirus (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2) Pandemic: A Joint American College of Academic International Medicine‑World Academic Council of Emergency Medicine Multidisciplinary COVID‑19 Working Group Consensus Paper". ResearchGate. Retrieved 2020-05-16.
  9. ^ "Coronavirus: Venice Carnival closes as Italy imposes lockdown". BBC. 2020-02-23. Retrieved 2020-03-21.
  10. ^ Jones, Sam (2020-03-14). "Spain orders nationwide lockdown to battle coronavirus". The Guardian. Retrieved 2020-03-21.
  11. ^ Mcardle, Mairead (2020-03-16). "France Announces Two-Week Lockdown, Orders Residents to Stay Home". National Review. Retrieved 2020-03-21.
  12. ^ Secon, Holly; Frias, Lauren; McFall-Johnsen, Morgan (2020-03-20). "A running list of countries that are on lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic". Business Insider. Retrieved 2020-03-23.
  13. ^ Resnick, Brian (2020-03-10). "Italy and China used lockdowns to slow the coronavirus. Could we?". Vox. Vox Media, LLC. Retrieved 2020-03-25.
  14. ^ Ravani, Sarah (2020-03-21). "Bay Area coronavirus decision: Behind the scenes of nation's first shelter-in-place order". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2020-03-22.
  15. ^ Waldrop, Theresa (2020-03-20). "Self-isolation, quarantine and California's stay-at-home order: What the terms mean and how they differ". CNN. Retrieved 2020-03-22.
  16. ^ Singal, Jesse (2020-03-19). "Stop Using the Term 'Shelter in Place' for the Coronavirus Crisis". Intelligencer. Retrieved 2020-03-22.
  17. ^ Tolan, Casey (2020-03-20). "Coronavirus: Newsom's stay-at-home order differs from the Bay Area's shelter-in-place rules. Now what happens?". The Mercury News. Retrieved 2020-03-22.
  18. ^ "New York, Illinois Governors Issue Stay At Home Orders, Following California's Lead". NPR. 2020-03-20. Retrieved 2020-03-22.
  19. ^ Corey, Rebecca (2020-03-21). "Shelter in place, stay at home, quarantine: What do coronavirus restrictions mean?". Yahoo News. Retrieved 2020-03-22.
  20. ^ "Emergency Lockdown Planning Considerations". Federal Emergency Management Agency. Retrieved 2020-03-23.
  21. ^ Guide for Developing High-Quality School Emergency Operations Plans (PDF). U.S. Department of Education. 2013. Retrieved 2020-03-23.
  22. ^ Pinsker, Joe (2019-05-09). "When Was the Last Time American Children Were So Afraid?". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2020-03-23.
  23. ^ Hays, Holly V. (2020-03-23). "Shelter in place, stay at home, lockdown: What the terms mean". Indy Star. Retrieved 2020-03-23.
  24. ^ Munks, Jamie (2020-03-20). "Gov. Pritzker issued a stay-at-home order. What does that mean?". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2020-03-22.
  25. ^ Hauck, Grace (2020-03-21). "These states are ordering residents to stay home or shelter in place. What does that mean?". Courier Journal. Retrieved 2020-03-23.
  26. ^ Branch, Kayla (2020-03-29). "Coronavirus in Oklahoma: More than a quarter of Oklahoma residents firmly under shelter-in-place orders". The Oklahoman. Retrieved 2020-03-29.
  27. ^ Wu, Gwendolyn (2020-03-24). "Coronavirus in Houston: What's the difference between a stay-at-home order and a shelter-in-place?". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2020-03-29.
  28. ^ Tatham, Chelsea (2020-03-25). "Stay-at-home vs shelter-in-place: Here's what they mean". WTSP. Retrieved 2020-03-29.
  29. ^ a b c d Florko, Nicholas (2020-03-17). "Explaining a mass quarantine: What does it mean to 'shelter in place'? And who has the power to call for it?". STAT. Retrieved 2020-03-24.
  30. ^ Baker, Sinéad (2020-03-17). "French people ignored officials' warnings to isolate themselves because of the coronavirus. Now they need a form to leave the house". Business Insider. Retrieved 2020-03-23.
  31. ^ "Coronavirus: 7 dead, 229 infected in Italy as Europe braces for COVID-19". NBC News. Retrieved 2020-02-29.
  32. ^ "COVID-19 Educational Disruption and Response". UNESCO. 2020-03-04. Retrieved 2020-03-28.
  33. ^ "Everything you need to know about Stay-Home Notice". Retrieved 2020-05-24.
  34. ^ Yong, Clement (2020-03-20). "How quarantine orders, stay-home notices differ". The Straits Times. Retrieved 2020-05-24.