In an attempt to control the spread of infectious diseases, national and local authorities in countries have to decide what services are essential to keep running or open while containment measures are put in place.
Although these decisions are country dependent, government authorities during the COVID-19 pandemic have mostly defined essential services or activities as those necessary for maintaining infrastructure and/or ensuring the basic health and welfare of the public.
These can include grocery or food markets, pharmacies, convenience stores, sanitation services, hospitals and health facilities, day-care centres, petrol (gas) stations, banks, post offices and transportation services, among others.
Activities or businesses that are recreational in nature (such as theatres, gyms, museums, sports venues, bars, etc.) are generally considered non-essential.
Essential government functions include all services needed to ensure the continuing operation of government agencies that provide for the health, safety and welfare of the public.