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A Recent Tweet Which Shows The Effect Of Coronavirus Lockdowns In Five Countries Is Mostly True

Claim 

A tweet posted on 7 June, 2020 with charts shows the effect of lockdowns in five different countries including India. 

It claims that COVID-19 cases in India rose rapidly after the nationwide lockdown was imposed and later lifted when cases continued to rise. Additionally, the above tweet claims that cases in other countries started to decrease after lockdown was imposed. Lockdown in these countries was only lifted when cases were decreasing. This claim is accompanied with five charts showing the daily case rise in five different countries before and after their respective lockdowns.

The attached image of the charts with similar claims has been widely circulating in the past few days on Twitter

Factcheck

A tweet with an image of five charts shows the effect of lockdowns in different countries in terms of daily new COVID-19 cases recorded. We divided the claim into two parts: 

1. In India, cases rose rapidly after lockdown was imposed and then lockdown was lifted when cases were rising.

2. In all other countries, cases started to decrease after the lockdown was imposed and lifted only when cases were decreasing.

As per the charts in the claim, the number of daily new cases were decreasing in the four countries shown when their respective lockdowns were lifted. The opposite is true in India’s case, where the number of daily new cases increased as lockdown restrictions were eased and the unlock stage began. 

Using Twitter advanced search we found that this graph was initially tweeted by Rahul Gandhi on 5 June, 2020 after which it went viral and was shared by many users. He tweeted, “This is what a failed lockdown looks like” along with five charts which show the effect of lockdown in five countries. 

Rahul Gandhi shared these charts on his Facebook timeline as well on the same day. 

Dhruv Rathee, who describes himself as a political, social and environmental activist, shared this graph titled “Lockdown and Unlock timings of different countries” on his Facebook timeline on 6 June, 2020. 

https://www.facebook.com/DhruvRatheePage/posts/2622359061362341

A cursory Google search showed us that a few media organisations reported on Gandhi’s tweet claiming India’s failed lockdown as well.

Verifying data in the charts

In order to verify this claim first-hand, we went to the source of this data, Our World In Data, as labeled in the chart image. We downloaded daily new cases data for Spain, Germany, India, Italy and the United Kingdom from 1 February to 4 June, 2020, a day before Gandhi’s claim was tweeted. As per our research, Gandhi was the first to post the image of lockdown charts. 

Once the data was downloaded, we created column charts for the five countries mentioned in order to recreate the image in the claim. This is what it looks like: 

https://infogram.com/lockdown-charts-1hzj4oz7vogo2pw?live

We took lockdown and unlock dates for each country from the sources linked below. With regard to unlock dates, we took into account the date when each country began easing its nationwide restrictions during the pandemic. 

Spain imposed a state of emergency on 14 March and began easing restrictions from 11 May

Germany imposed a country-wide lockdown on 22 March. Chancellor Angela Merkel announced relaxations of national restrictions on 6 May after talks with leaders of Germany’s 16 federal states. At this point all shops were allowed to reopen. 

India’s PM Narendra Modi declared a nationwide lockdown starting 24 midnight or 25 March, 2020. The first 21 day lockdown was later extended on 15 April and again on 4 May, and termed as Lockdown 2.0 and Lockdown 3.0, respectively. Although the country began to witness considerable relaxations with standalone stores and select liquor shops opening in the third lockdown, the fourth lockdown came to an end on 31 May with announcements of further relaxations in Unlock 1.0. 

On 9 March, 2020 Italy announced its national lockdown. The country began to ease its restrictions on 4 May by allowing factories and parks to reopen. 

United Kingdom’s PM Boris Johnson addressed the nation on coronavirus on 23 March announcing a complete shutdown of the country. Their initial lockdown rules were enacted by a new legislation. On 16 March people were told to avoid all non-essential contact with others, and starting 20 March all pubs, cafes, restaurants and bars were closed. Easing of lockdown restrictions started on 10 May when PM Johnson provided details for several stages in the UK’s coronavirus plan. 

After comparing the charts we created with those posted in the initial claim we noticed that daily cases in the four countries except India were decreasing (with the exception of a few days when new infections surged) as they began easing restrictions. Here, let’s note that even after these countries unlocked there were a few surges. India on the other hand, had daily new infections consistently rising around the time restrictions were eased and the country announced its official Unlock on 31 May. 

Therefore, part one of the claim is true. In India, cases rose rapidly after lockdown was imposed. And the number of new cases continue to rise daily as restrictions are eased and phase one of Unlock began. 

The second part of the claim is partly false and partly true. In the four countries: Spain, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom, new cases were on the rise even after they went into nationwide lockdowns. Although after a period of consistent rise, daily new cases did begin to decrease, and it’s then that their lockdown restrictions were eased. As shown in the charts we created, the daily new cases were decreasing except for a few days of surge. 

Conclusion

The tweet showing lockdown effects in five countries including India is mostly true. In India, daily new cases were on the rise as it entered and came out of the national lockdown. On the contrary, though Spain, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom had an increase in their daily new infections after their respective lockdowns were imposed, restrictions were eased or lockdowns were partially lifted when daily new cases decreased. 

Tools Used

  • Twitter advanced search
  • Google advanced search
  • Infogram

Result: Mostly True

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Nikita Vashisth
Nikita is a writer and editor for English fact-checking. She also leads projects to understand the misinformation and fake-news ecosystem—with an emphasis on data and psychology. Previously, she has worked with IndiaSpend, CNN-News18 and written for Citizen Matters and Mongabay-India on the environment, health, and politics. She’s a postgraduate of the Computational Journalism program at Cardiff University, Wales.

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