LONDON — In China it was fengcheng. In Spain it was el confinamiento. In France it was le confinement. In Britain it was known as lockdown, plain and simple — but it had the distinction of being one of the longest and most stringent in the world.
On Monday, that finally began drawing to an end.
After months of coronavirus restrictions that encroached on almost every aspect of daily life, the English celebrated a hopeful new chapter, many of them in what seemed the most fitting way possible: with a pint at a pub.
“It’s like being out of prison,” said Kate Asani, who was sitting at a small table with two friends in the back garden of the Carlton Tavern in the Kilburn area of London, where they basked in each other’s company as much as in the sunshine.
For people across Europe, struggling with yet another wave of the pandemic and demoralized by a vaccine rollout that, outside of Britain, has been deeply troubled, this is hardly a time to rejoice.
Images from the ghostly streets of Wuhan riveted the world’s attention, and it soon became clear that the virus respected no national borders. But there was debate over whether Western democracies could — or should — resort to the extreme measures taken by Beijing.
As hospitals struggled to deal with a flood of patients and death tolls soared, the debate was overtaken by the undeniable reality that traditional methods of infectious disease control, like testing and contact tracing, had failed.
And so lockdowns became a way of life.
held out longer than many of its European neighbors, entered its first national lockdown on March 26, 2020.
Although it is difficult to compare lockdowns, researchers at the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford have developed a system ranking their stringency. They found that Britain had spent 175 days at its “maximum stringency level.”
“In this sense, we can say that the U.K. is globally unique in spending the longest period of time at a very high level of stringency,” said Thomas Hale, an associate professor of global public policy at Oxford.