COVID-19: the winter lockdown strategy in five European nations

George W. Warren*, Ragnar Lofstedt, Jamie K. Wardman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


European lockdown strategies over the winter of 2020 have brought into sharp relief the need for effective strategies to reduce the rate of COVID-19 transmission and lower the rate of hospitalisations and deaths. Understanding exactly how European nations have arrived at this point, and the process by which they have done this, is key to learning constructive lessons for future pandemic risk management. Bringing together experience from across five European nations (the UK, France, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland), this paper outlines what has occurred between September 2020 and mid-January 2021. Our analysis draws out several themes important to understanding the different national risk management approaches adopted, namely: the extent to which lessons were learned or overlooked from the first wave of the pandemic; the relationship between science and policy; the speed and responsiveness of policy decisions; and differing levels of reliance on individual responsibility for safeguarding public health. Subsequently, we recommended that: there is more involvement of decision scientists and risk analysts in COVID-19 decision making, who have largely been absent thus far; the epidemiological science should be followed where possible, but when value judgments are made this should be clearly and transparently communicated; proactive measures avoiding policy delay should be followed to reduce the rate of infection and excess deaths; governments must avoid confusing or inconsistent regional implementation and communication of interventions; rebuilding public trust is key to promoting public compliance and support for COVID-19 health measures; overreliance on individual responsibility as the focus of non-pharmaceutical interventions should be avoided; public compliance with COVID-19 restrictions requires pre-tested simple messages; open and consistent engagement with local leaders and officials should become a mainstay of government efforts to help ensure consistent adoption of nationwide COVID-19 policy measures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-293
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Risk Research
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • COVID-19
  • European risk management
  • health policy
  • winter lockdown


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