How Countries Around the Globe Penalize People Who Break Quarantine

Heavy fines, media shaming and occasional jail time are all potential consequences

Italy in lockdown
Mounted policemen patrol for the lockdown and control of self-certification in Turin, Italy
Stefano Guidi/Getty Images

An eight-second quarantine escape in Taiwan landed one man a $3,550 fine.

That’s just one of several stories profiled by the New York Times regarding the severity of breaking stay-at-home orders during COVID-19 … at least those emanating from countries outside the United States.

For this particular story, the Times profiled some of the more unusual cases of people leaving their mandated locations. For those caught, they faced heavy fines and national scrutiny, although jail has been a penalty in a few countries.

“Everyone is operating in a crazy world where our normal rational decision making goes out the window,” as Robert Hoffmann, a professor of economics at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, told the paper. “A pandemic is a perfect storm.”

The COVID breakers profiled include:

  • The aforementioned man in a Taiwan quarantine hotel who took six strides outside of his room to leave something for a neighbor.
  • An Italian man, later dubbed “Forrest Gump,” who breached a national curfew and walked 280 miles after a fight with his wife.
  • A Belgian prince who defied a two-week quarantine in Spain to hit up a party. He caught the coronavirus and, even as royalty, was given a five-figure fine.
  • And a Melbourne, Australia construction worker who got a hankering for butter chicken but traveled outside of a set lockdown area and was quickly caught by police. “I have to risk my life to go to work, but I can’t risk my own life to get takeaway,” he said. “That’s a bit unfair.” (An essential worker, he admitted he made a mistake about where and when he could travel.)


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