Impacts of Nighttime Curfews on Mobility and Transmission of COVID-19

Last Updated: April 14, 2021

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This Briefing Note was completed by the Evidence Synthesis Unit (Research, Analysis and Evaluation Branch, Ministry of Health) in collaboration with a member of the COVID-19 Evidence Synthesis Network. Please refer to the Methods section for further information.


This document summarizes the scientific evidence and jurisdictional information on the impacts of nighttime curfews on population mobility and on the transmission of COVID-19, including when they are implemented with other non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs)/public health measures.

*The full version of the Briefing Note including the Appendix can be accessed in the PDF file at the top of the page*

Key Findings

Analysis for Ontario

Curfews may reduce the transmission of COVID-19 in Ontario; however, they must be designed in consideration of the many potential health, social and equity impacts that accompany them.

Supporting Evidence

This section below summarizes the scientific evidence and jurisdictional information on the impacts of nighttime curfews on population mobility and transmission of COVID-19 as well as the negative social, health, and equity issues associated with curfews, including when they are implemented with other non-pharmaceutical interventions/public health measures. It also includes information on the methods used to implement these curfews, such as: how they were communicated and enforced, and how the public responded to them; what populations or activities that have been exempted; and supports that were provided for vulnerable groups, if any.

Scientific Evidence

  • Impacts of Nighttime Curfews on Population Mobility: Four studies reported the impact of nighttime curfews on population mobility, including the impact they had when they were implemented alongside other non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs)/public health measures. According to these studies:
    • Implementing a curfew in Quebec was associated with an immediate reduction in nighttime mobility (31% relative reduction) compared to nighttime mobility in Ontario (without curfew).
    • The government lockdown period in Thailand reduced distances traveled by more than 90% and limited cross-border movement to short-distance trips.
    • Curfews imposed in Kenya limited citizens’ travel outside their neighbourhoods to work or job hunting only, even without strict enforcement; less than 15% of respondents reported that citywide mobility was for social reasons or to seek healthcare.
    • A curfew imposed in France led to increased mobility (e.g., pre-curfew shopping prior to a holiday), suggesting that researchers to recommend that implementation be accompanied by an analysis of the local situation.
  • Impacts of Nighttime Curfews on SARS-CoV-2 Infections: Numerous studies demonstrate that curfews reduce COVID-19 transmission, particularly when they are implemented alongside other public health measures. For example, they are associated with a reduction in the reproduction number and a lower incidence of confirmed cases and hospital admissions.
    • In 54 countries and four epicenters of the COVID-19 pandemic (i.e., Wuhan, New York State, Lombardy, and Madrid) where stay-at-home orders, curfews, or lockdowns were implemented between January 23 and April 11, 2020,the percent increases in daily new cases were curbed to <5% within one month.
    • A study (November 2020) that assessed the impact that NPIs had on the reproduction number in 56 countries and 24 US states concluded that the most effective NPIs include curfews, lockdowns, and closing and restricting places where people gather in smaller or large numbers for extended periods.
    • In Turkey, imposing a partial curfew for older individuals, alongside the preventive measures that were in place at the onset of the outbreak, significantly reduced the mortality rate, and the number of patients needing intubation and intensive care.
  • Negative Impacts of Curfews: Two studies suggest that containment measures including curfews may not be effective at the household level. For example, in Italy a significant decrease of infections in workplaces, social gatherings, coffee shops, restaurants, and sports centers was observed but domestic infections increased (i.e., among family members and due to social gatherings).
    • Social and Health-related Impacts of Curfews: When curfews were imposed alongside other public health measures, the strength of social relationships was found to be diminished. Further, there were reductions in the use of health care services for non-COVID-19 patients, which was possibly because people chose not to seek treatment during the stay-at-home order for health issues they did not perceive as life-threatening (e.g., those with pulmonary embolism). Finally, the curfews were associated with increased violence (i.e., incidents of traumatic injuries in hospitals or police reports of domestic violence), decreased physical activity, and an increase in anxiety and depression.
    • Equity Impacts of Curfew: A study that compared mobility data (January 2021) in Ontario and Quebec suggests that the impact of the curfew appeared to be somewhat inequitable in that there were smaller mobility reductions seen in neighbourhoods with lower socioeconomic status and higher proportions of essential workers, who have had higher COVID-19 incidence and mortality.

International Scan

  • Curfews: Information on the use of curfews during the COVID-19 pandemic was identified in eight jurisdictions: Australia, France, French Guiana, India, the Netherlands, and Turkey, and several states and cities in the United States (US).
    • Timing: Most jurisdictions imposed curfews during the spring of 2021 (i.e., beginning in February, March or April 2021) with the following exceptions: Victoria (Australia) (July to September 2020), California (November 2020 to January 2021), the Netherlands (January to April 2021), and Turkey (March 2020 ongoing to April 2021, with adjustments according to age groups or day of the week). 
      • In France, a nighttime curfew (8:00 PM to 6:00 AM) was set on January 2021. The curfew was made more stringent 15 French counties, starting at 6:00 PM. However, as of March 2021, the national curfew had still been maintained and extended from 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM (to account for daylight savings time) throughout the whole French mainland territory.
    • Scope: While some curfews are imposed nation-wide (e.g., France, Netherlands, Turkey), others have been targeted to specific cities, states or regions such as in Australia where the city of Melbourne alone was under curfew, India (New Delhi and the state of Maharashtra), and several US states. 
    • Duration: The curfew durations varied from two-weeks (e.g., El Paso, Texas), to several months (e.g., the Netherlands, California), to over a year (Turkey). In some jurisdictions, the curfew parameters (e.g., start time) were adjusted as needed. For example, in Ohio the curfew start time gradually eased from 10:00 PM to 11:00 PM, which was based on reduced hospitalization rates (a key indicator of disease severity).
    • Hours: In most jurisdictions, nighttime curfews started between 7:00 and 10:00 PM and ended from 4:30 and 6:00 AM. In French Guiana, the government has defined two geographic ‘zones’ of nightly curfews: 1) 7:00 PM to 5:00 AM; and 2) 11:59 PM to 5:00 AM. In Newark, curfews were set according to ZIP codes, with curfews imposed in areas with high case numbers.
  • Communication and Enforcement: Communication methods were limited to online information only (e.g., via government websites, including departments of public health, and city or state websites). Formats included memos/letters addressed to the public (California) or fact sheets (e.g., Ohio).
    • Fines: Four jurisdictions have imposed fines for curfew infractions: Australia, France, India, and the Netherlands. In Australia, the Victoria Police issued on-the-spot fines of up to CAD $1,348 for adults and up to CAD $8,089 for businesses, including for refusing or failing to comply with the emergency directions. In the Netherlands, fines for individuals are CAD $145.
  • Public Response: Media reports have documented public protests in many of the jurisdictions that have imposed curfews (i.e., Australia, France, India, Netherlands). Public opinion polls have suggested that support for curfews ranges from 54% in France (April 2021) to 72% in Australia (August 2020). In Australia, it was also found that voters aged over 34 were more likely to support lockdown measures than younger people. A notable exception was the Netherlands where public responses to curfews imposed in January 2021 resulted in consecutive days of rioting, and where there was waning support reported in April 2021, particularly to a ban on outdoor dining.
  • Curfew Exemptions: Most jurisdictions allow exemptions for the following reasons:
    • Commuting to and from work, school or training place; carrying out essential business trips that cannot be postponed; medical appointments that cannot be carried out remotely or postponed; obtaining medicines, essential family reasons, assisting vulnerable persons, assisting persons in a precarious situation or taking care of children; assisting persons with a disability; judicial or administrative summons; air or rail transit related to long distance journeys; and walking a pet outdoors within close proximity to one’s place of residence and for a brief periods. Other noted exemptions include attending a funeral (Netherlands), and people experiencing homelessness (California, Ohio, Netherlands).
    • Exemption Documentation: France and the Netherlands require documentation for individual exemptions, such as an exemption certificate or signed declaration (by the individual or employer, as appropriate). In the Netherlands, there are special circumstances when an exemption form is not required (i.e., a person who feels unsafe at home due to domestic violence, someone with serious psychological stress, traveling for childcare).
  • Seasonality: In Melbourne (Victoria, Australia), the onset of the curfew was adjusted to one hour later as spring approached in the southern hemisphere and daylight hours began to lengthen. In France, the national curfew was extended from 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM on March 2021 to account for daylight savings time.
  • Protecting Vulnerable Populations: An editorial (August 2020) suggested that Turkey was the only country worldwide to have applied a unique age-stratified curfew, beginning with one for seniors older than 65 years (March 2020) and following with one for children and youth younger than 20 years (April 2020). Authorities aimed to protect the elderly people with the highest morbidity risk and mortality rate by keeping as many as people at home to decrease the spread of the virus. In addition, a youth curfew allowed people between these age groups to work and keep the economy running.
    • Mental Health Supports: In Turkey, mental health professionals developed materials for parents and their children and made them available free of charge; live broadcasts on social media provided information, as well as offered advice on how people should continue their lives under lockdown.

Canadian Scan

  • Curfews: In Quebec, citizens can not leave their homes between 9:30 PM and 5:00 AM, except in cases that justified travel. Starting on April 11, 2021, the curfew is to be in effect from 8:00 PM to 5:00 AM in the regions of Montréal and Laval. Some First Nations communities across Canada have implemented community-wide curfews to limit COVID-19 transmission (e.g., Fort McKay First Nation in Alberta implemented a stay-at-home order that included a curfew that prohibited vehicle traffic between 9:00 PM and 5:00 AM daily).
  • Communication and Enforcement: Information about curfews and related public health measures was communicated on the Government of Quebec’s website. In Quebec, fines range from $1,000 to $6,000 if an individual is unable to adequately justify why they are outside the home. Young people 14 years of age and over are subject to a $500 fine.
  • Public Response: Sixty-five per cent of respondents in a national poll (taken between January 15 and 18, 2021) by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies said they would support temporary curfews if they were recommended by public health officials. The authors state that this suggests that Canadians “want to do their part and will stand by their governments” in their efforts to reduce the spread of the virus. But it also suggests provinces “need to sell this [curfews] if they want to make it work.” In Quebec, where recent protests in Montreal led to ticketing and arrests, results of an April 2021 public opinion poll conducted by the Institut national de santé publique du Quebec reported that 69% of Quebecers support keeping curfew for the ‘next few weeks’. In Montreal, the curfew was backed by 71% of those surveyed.
  • Curfew Exemptions: There are numerous exemptions allowed, such as those related to work, health care needs (e.g., getting medication from the pharmacy or going to a hospital, clinic or doctor’s office), visiting a sick or injured parent, participation in evening university and college classes, and walking a dog. Employers are asked to complete declarations for employees required to travel due to work.
  • Seasonality: No information was identified.
  • Protecting Vulnerable Populations: People experiencing homelessness are exempt from the curfew. The lockdown and curfew must not prevent victims of conjugal violence from leaving an environment where they feel they are in danger. Resources are made available on the government website.

Ontario Scan

  • No information was identified.


Individual peer-reviewed articles were identified through PubMed, and Google Scholar. The search was limited to English sources and therefore may not capture the full extent of initiatives in non-English speaking countries. Full-text results extracted were limited to those available through Open Access or studies made available to the Ministry by our partners. Jurisdictional information was identified using Google and on relevant government websites.

The Medical Subject Heading term “COVID-19” was used in combination with keywords to identify relevant articles for this review including: “curfew”, “social acceptance”, “protests”, and “police”. 

The COVID-19 Evidence Synthesis Network is comprised of groups specializing in evidence synthesis and knowledge translation. The group has committed to provide their expertise to provide high-quality, relevant, and timely synthesized research evidence about COVID-19 to inform decision makers as the pandemic continues. The following members of the Network provided evidence synthesis products that were used to develop this Evidence Synthesis Briefing Note:

  • Evidence Synthesis Unit, Research Analysis and Evaluation Branch, Ministry of Health. April 19, 2021.
  • Al-Khateeb S, Wilson MG, Bhuiya A, Mansilla C, Lavis JN. COVID-END in Canada existing resource response #9: What is known about the effects, communication, implementation and enforcement of nighttime curfews on COVID-19 infections?Hamilton: McMaster Health Forum, COVID-END in Canada, 14 April 2021.