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Collins Dictionary has declared “lockdown” as the word of the year. The dictionary has defined ‘lockdown’ as “a security measure in which those inside a building or area are required to remain confined in it for a time” and “the imposition of stringent restrictions on travel, social interaction, and access to public spaces”.

While 2020 is the year we witnessed lockdown with the Coronavirus pandemic, this isn’t the first lockdown in the history of the world.

The concept has existed for ages to curb down various natural and man-made situations. Let’s take a look through the pages of history to look back at various lockdowns that the world saw over the centuries.

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Seeds of a Shutdown

The Plague of Justinian, which was named for the emperor Justinian (AD 527-565) of the Byzantine empire was what sparked off the end to the great civilisation. The King was sick with the bubonic plague and the disease wreaked havoc on the empire. Some researchers believe that the disease managed to killed up to 5,000 people per day in Constantinople. The devastation it caused to the empire and the population made the experts come up with the idea of separating the diseased people from the general population. However, there wasn’t a formally laid out plan for the same back then.

First Markers of Lockdown, Quarantine

The measures taken to alleviate the effects of the bubonic plague that hit Europe in the 14th century was what is termed as the first ever attempt at a lockdown by the government or those in power. Nicknamed as ‘Black Death’ which attacked parts of Europe and others through 1346 to 1353. Italy’s response to the plague has been deemed the best, the officials were entrusted to lower down movement of people and means of transport in the public space. Sea ports refused to take in ships coming from other countries for fear of fresh plague attacks and in 1348, a formal health policy was initiated thus making Venice one of the first cities to do so. Also, the ships that were allowed to moor at the ports, sailors from them were told to isolate for a month, which led to the beginning of the concept and term of ‘quarantine’. The Italian word for it was originally ‘trentino’, and the English word “quarantine” is directly inspired from the Italian ‘quarantino’, meaning 40-day period. The plague managed to kill about 25 million people across the world eventually.

Spanish Flu Flattening Measures

The virus, which spread in the 20th century and claimed its first recorded death in Britain in 1918, spread even more due to the ongoing First World war and the inaction by the government then which placed more importance on the war rather than the public safety.

The virus spread easily among soldiers, factory workers and in people who used public modes of transport. Even though a policy of safe measures to be undertaken was prepared by authorities, it never saw the daylight because the government kept it under wraps to not alarm the public. It reportedly spoke of avoiding large gatherings and staying indoors. The widely propagated misinformation about the virus is that it originated in Spain but the fact was it was the first country that reported deaths from it.

Similar Lockdown Measures, 100 Years on

Even though there were no actually formalised forms of lockdown imposed on the public, curbs existed in several forms where many public areas of congregation were told to down shutters for fear of the virus spread. Theatres, dance halls, cinemas and churches were closed and in many cases the shutdown lasted for months. Authorities sprayed disinfectants and use of anti-pollution and face covers also saw a rise. The government also initiated drives to warn against spread of the disease through touch and other physical contacts.

Lockdowns in Recent Past

Around 20 years ago, a deadly disease that came to be termed as the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) virus was detected in China, and later spread to many parts of the world. Although the disease was curbed quickly, efforts to eradicate it begun with a form of lockdown by the Chinese government. Districts were locked down, people were instructed not to venture out and limit social interactions.

Apart from the lockdowns which were necessitated due to such health emergencies, lockdowns have also been implemented due to several many-made concerns. Terror attacks in the US in 2001 also had initiated a short period of locking down in parts of the country. Jammu and Kashmir has also been in a state of absolute civilian lockdown after the Abrogation of Article 370 in 2019.

Within the past 24 hours, India saw 47,905 new Covid-19 cases and 550 deaths, taking the total tally in the country to 8,683,916. The total fatalities are at 1,28,121 after the latest update of the Health Ministry.

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