COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom

ongoing viral pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom is part of the worldwide pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The virus reached the country in late January 2020.

Quotes in chronological order


March 2020

  • The Boris Johnson government's initial response to COVID-19 was the now discredited policy of "herd immunity" — the strategy of letting the virus rip through the population, infecting up to 40 million people, most of whom would recover and then supposedly be immune to the virus. The only problem was that this would have resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths — a prospect the Tories had to abandon in the face of expert denunciation and widespread public outrage. Johnson's change of tack was to move finally towards lockdown, advising against mass gatherings and urging people to avoid clubs, pubs, and restaurants — and most travel — as well as advising older people to self isolate. (And of course, it was only 'advisory' – so that finance capital does not have to foot the bill for hundreds of thousands of insurance claims from small businesses.)
  • But this has still left a gaping hole in government virus strategy. First, the World Health Organization (WHO) advice — "test, test, test" — is not being implemented. Health workers who were being organised to take on this role were almost immediately stood down. Everything is being done in secrecy: there is no openness, no transparency, no grown-up debate, no democratic scrutiny, no public accountability. We can only guess at the reason. Perhaps they realised it was hopeless because they didn’t have the testing kits. Perhaps it dawned on them that mass testing would reveal the vast numbers already infected and thus expose the scale of their negligence. What is certain is that willful blindness is central to Tory policy. There is virtually no testing anywhere. The WHO policy that you test, you trace, you isolate, you contain is being TOTALLY ignored by the Johnson/Cummings regime. They are not even testing health workers.
  • This is putting thousands of health workers at risk, and essentially abandoning hundreds of them to catch the virus, to spread the virus, and in many cases to die. The experts in a health emergency are, of course, the health workers. But they are silenced by the Tories and the NHS bosses — threatened with dismissal if caught telling the truth to the public they serve — as if we were living in Stalinist China.
  • Without mass testing, tracing, and isolating, you cannot contain. So everything else — the ban on mass gatherings, the school closures, the lockdown measures — all of it, of course, too late — amount to only half a strategy. In fact, all the signs are that they haven't really let go of their callous notion that people with "underlying" health conditions should be treated as expendable. But that is not just a few old people. About 43% of adults are reckoned to have at least one long-term health condition — disproportionately, of course, poorer people.
  • The Tories and New Labour have created a casualised, insecure, low-wage economy in which the bosses rule and workers are forced to take what they can get. Millions will find themselves with no income. When they try to claim benefits, they will find in place a ruthless regime of cuts, sanctions and suicidal despair — another achievement of Tory austerity. The most that Johnson has said about this so far is that claimants will not need to attend job-centre interviews any more. And what of expenditure? There is vague talk of a "mortgage holiday" and even vaguer talk of renters not being evicted during the crisis. But no talk of all the other payments that should be suspended, including, of course, utilities bills and other fixed household charges. Meanwhile, the profiteers are marking up the prices on goods in short supply — hand sanitiser, paracetemol, toilet roll, etc — and, needless to say, the Tories have done absolutely nothing to control prices.
  • In any case, there is no evidence that the Tories have any intention of doing any of the things they say they will do. The "do everything necessary" rhetoric is bullshit. It’s just a mantra to hide the absence of concrete action and any enforcement mechanism. This can only get much worse, as the entire world economy nosedives, millions more are laid off, and we enter a period of catastrophic social breakdown comparable with the Great Depression. The Tories know this is coming. They are preparing for it.
  • The utterly shambolic response of ruling elites to the coronavirus crisis in both Britain and the US is symptomatic of neoliberalism — of 40 years of profiteering, of grotesque greed, of privatisation of public services, of contempt for ordinary people and their needs. The Tories, presiding over this travesty, will not only try to ride out the storm; they will seek to use the crisis to strengthen the wealth and power of the very people who are responsible for it. This is what happened in 2008. It must not happen again. We need to be absolutely clear. We will not be dictated to by the rich, the Tories, and the police. We will not have our health workers put at risk. We will not have our loved ones killed to protect big business. We will not tolerate their lies, cover-ups and negligence. We will not let them use this crisis to smash democracy so they can continue to siphon wealth to the top. The time has come to put an end to neoliberalism. This crisis is a radical opportunity. Another system is possible. Another system is a necessity.
  • It's quite unusual for a government to publish a plan with things in it we hope we won't have to do. [...] It's far too early to be able to tell in that instance. What we can say for sure is that, right now, we do not recommend the cancelling of mass events, and schools as well should not be closing unless there is both a positive case and the school has had the advice to close from Public Health England.
  • We are telling cafes, bars, pubs and restaurants to close tonight as soon as they reasonably can and not to open tomorrow. To be clear they can continue to provide take out services. Night clubs, theatres, gyms and leisure centres should close on the same time scale. These are places where people come together and indeed the whole purpose is to bring people together. Some people will be tempted to go out tonight. Please don't. You may think you are invincible bit there is no guarantee you will get mild symptoms. As far as possible we want you to stay at home - that's how we can protect our NHS and save lives.

April 2020

  • When Neil Ferguson visited the heart of British government in London’s Downing Street, he was much closer to the COVID-19 pandemic than he realized. Ferguson, a mathematical epidemiologist at Imperial College London, briefed officials in mid-March on the latest results of his team’s computer models, which simulated the rapid spread of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 through the UK population. Less than 36 hours later, he announced on Twitter that he had a fever and a cough. A positive test followed. The disease-tracking scientist had become a data point in his own project.
    Ferguson is one of the highest-profile faces in the effort to use mathematical models that predict the spread of the virus — and that show how government actions could alter the course of the outbreak. “It’s been an immensely intensive and exhausting few months,” says Ferguson, who kept working throughout his relatively mild symptoms of COVID-19. “I haven’t really had a day off since mid-January.”
    Research does not get much more policy-relevant than this. When updated data in the Imperial team’s model indicated that the United Kingdom’s health service would soon be overwhelmed with severe cases of COVID-19, and might face more than 500,000 deaths if the government took no action, Prime Minister Boris Johnson almost immediately announced stringent new restrictions on people’s movements. The same model suggested that, with no action, the United States might face 2.2 million deaths; it was shared with the White House and new guidance on social distancing quickly followed.
  • Media reports have suggested that an update to the Imperial team’s model in early March was a critical factor in jolting the UK government into changing its policy on the pandemic. The researchers initially estimated that 15% of hospital cases would need to be treated in an intensive-care unit (ICU), but then updated that to 30%, a figure used in the first public release of their work on 16 March. That model showed the UK health service, with just over 4,000 ICU beds, would be overwhelmed.
    Government officials had previously talked up a theory of allowing the disease to spread while protecting the oldest in society, because large numbers of infected people would recover and provide herd immunity for the rest. But they changed their course on seeing the new figures, ordering social-distancing measures. Critics then asked why social distancing hadn’t been discussed earlier, why widespread testing hadn’t happened, and why modellers had even chosen the 15% figure, given that a January paper showed that more than 30% of a small group of people with COVID-19 in China needed treatment in ICUs.
    Ferguson says the significance of the model update might have been exaggerated. Even before that, he says, models already indicated that COVID-19, if left entirely unmitigated, could kill in the order of half a million UK citizens over the next year and that ICUs would be stretched beyond capacity. Advisory teams had discussed suppressing the pandemic by social distancing, but officials were worried that this would only lead to a bigger second outbreak later in the year. Widespread testing of the kind seen in South Korea was not considered; but, in part, says Ferguson, this was because Britain’s health agency had told government advisers that it would not be able to scale up testing fast enough.
    As for the Chinese data on ICUs, clinicians had looked at them, but noted that only half the cases seemed to need invasive mechanical ventilators; the others were given pressurized oxygen, so might not need an ICU bed. On the basis of this and their experience with viral pneumonia, clinicians had advised modellers that 15% was a better assumption.
    The key update came the week before Ferguson briefed government officials at Downing Street. Clinicians who had been talking to horrified colleagues in Italy said that pressurized oxygen wasn’t working well and that all 30% of the severe hospitalized cases would need invasive ventilation in an ICU. Ferguson says the updated models’ mortality projections didn’t change hugely, because many predicted deaths are likely to occur in the community rather than in hospitals. But the understanding of how health services would be overwhelmed, and the experience of Italy, led to a “sudden focusing of minds”, he says: government officials swiftly pivoted to social-distancing measures.
  • You are saving lives by staying at home, so I urge you to stick with it this weekend, even if we do have some fine weather.

May 2020


June 2020

  • Figures by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show male taxi cab drivers and chauffeurs had higher rates of deaths involving coronavirus in England and Wales. Higher than doctors, nurses and care workers.
    Scientists believe private-hire drivers are particularly at risk - and the longer the journey, the bigger the risk.
    "Unlike black cabs, there is no physical barrier separating the driver and the passengers," says Dr Joe Grove, a virologist at University College London.
    "People are close together and if the windows aren't open, the air can be quite stagnant.
    "An infected passenger releases microscopic droplets containing the virus. Even after they've left the car, the virus will remain."
    Sociologist Dr Mark Williams from Queen Mary University of London says taxi and private-hire drivers are among the worst hit because they face many risk factors.
    "They can't do their job from home, and their job makes it hard to socially distance, but they're also self-employed so need to work."

October 2020

  • Testing travellers, whether on departure or on arrival, is one of the most important steps the government could take. It would boost confidence in travelling and offer substantial reassurance, knowing that those around you at the airport or on a plane are Covid-free.
  • In this country, as across much of Europe, the virus is spreading even faster than the reasonable worst case scenario of our scientific advisers.
If we fail to take action, then there is a real risk of depriving non-Covid patients of the care that they need from the NHS (1/10)

November 2020


December 2020

  • Over the last few days, thanks to our world class genomic capability in the UK, we have identified a new variant of coronavirus which may be associated with the faster spread in the south-east of England. Initial analysis suggests that this variant is growing faster than the existing variants.

January 2021


April 2021

  • There have been some reports of public disorder during the current pandemic, but as yet, there is no evidence of widespread deliberate and intentional transmission of COVID-19.
    The application of the law in cases like this is also uncertain and unclear. For example, what do Hunt’s words, “take a step” and “deliberate”, mean in this context? How would it be proved that coughing on someone led to the death of a healthcare worker?
    First, it would be difficult to identify a specific individual as the source of a possible infection, particularly since the virus can remain on surfaces for several days.
    Then there is the question of intent. As a matter of law, it is not merely proof of deliberate (rather than accidental) conduct that creates criminal liability, but also someone’s state of mind at the time of the action and whether it is in the public interest to prosecute.
    This is a much more complex issue in public health cases.
    In 2013, a circus acrobat, Godfrey Zaburoni, was jailed for deliberately infecting his girlfriend with HIV through unprotected sex. But his conviction was quashed by the High Court, which stated:
    a person’s awareness of the risk that his or her conduct may result in harm does not … support the inference that the person intended to produce the harm.

August 2021


October 2021

  • The UK surged ahead in its rollout of the vaccine. That's undoubtedly saved many lives by preventing severe cases of Covid, but this early progress could give a clue as to why the country is facing higher cases now.
  • These two charts show us the effect of the removal of restrictions and the rise of the Delta variant on the one hand in driving up cases, and the vaccination programme on the other in pushing down admissions.

March 2022

  • would not be surprised [if more countries start considering additional shots beyond a single booster in the months ahead

There are many claims that we're finished with the pandemic. Alas, this particular novel coronavirus is nowhere near finished with us.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a global health crisis that has affected nearly every aspect of human life, and the United Kingdom (UK) has not been immune to its devastating impact. Since the first reported case in early 2020, the UK has experienced waves of infections, resulting in significant loss of life, strain on the healthcare system, and profound socio-economic consequences. However, the UK's response to the pandemic has evolved over time, reflecting the nation's ability to adapt and learn from its experiences. This article delves into the various phases of the UK's response to the pandemic, highlighting key strategies, challenges faced, and the lessons learned along the way.

The Early Stages and Initial Response The first section examines the UK's response during the early stages of the pandemic, including the initial measures taken to contain the virus and protect public health. It discusses the government's decision-making process, the implementation of social distancing measures, and the challenges encountered in the early stages, such as the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing capabilities. It also addresses the role of scientific advice and its influence on policy decisions.

Waves of Infections and the Burden on Healthcare This section explores the waves of COVID-19 infections that swept across the UK, placing immense pressure on the healthcare system. It discusses the challenges faced by hospitals and healthcare workers, the impact on non-COVID medical services, and the efforts made to increase the healthcare capacity to meet the rising demands. It also delves into the effectiveness of the NHS Test and Trace system, analyzing its strengths and weaknesses.

Vaccination Campaign and Easing Restrictions One of the significant turning points in the UK's battle against the pandemic was the successful rollout of vaccines. This section examines the development, approval, and distribution of vaccines in the UK, including the challenges associated with logistics, public perception, and vaccine hesitancy. It also discusses the role of the NHS and healthcare professionals in ensuring a smooth vaccination campaign and analyzes the subsequent easing of restrictions as vaccination coverage increased.

Socio-Economic Impact and Support Measures The COVID-19 pandemic had far-reaching consequences for the UK's economy and society. This section delves into the socio-economic impact, discussing the measures taken by the government to mitigate the effects on businesses, workers, and vulnerable populations. It explores the furlough scheme, financial support packages, and initiatives to address the mental health and well-being of the population during these challenging times.

Lessons Learned and the Path Forward In the final section, we reflect on the lessons learned from the UK's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It highlights the importance of early preparedness, effective communication, and collaboration between scientific advisors, policymakers, and the public. It also emphasizes the need for investment in public health infrastructure and the importance of equitable access to healthcare and vaccines. Lastly, it provides insights into the ongoing challenges, such as new variants, and outlines the steps needed to ensure a resilient and sustainable healthcare system for the future.


The COVID-19 pandemic has been an unprecedented crisis that tested the UK's healthcare system, governance, and resilience. Throughout this article, we have examined the UK's response to the pandemic, from the early stages to the vaccination campaign and the easing of restrictions. We have seen the challenges faced, the lessons learned, and the efforts made to mitigate the impact on society. While there have been successes, it is essential to remain vigilant and adaptable as the pandemic continues to evolve. By incorporating the lessons learned and addressing the remaining challenges, the UK can move forward with renewed strength and preparedness, ensuring the well-being and safety of its population in the face of future health crises.

See also

COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom at Wikiquote's sister projects:
  Article at Wikipedia
  Media from Commons
  News stories from Wikinews
  Database entry #Q84167106 on Wikidata