55.9 Overall Score (down 10 since Aug 1st.)

United Kingdom

  • 34.8 Public Health
  • 55.9 Financial
  • 68 Fact-Based
  • 34.8 Public Health
  • 55.9 Financial
  • 68 Fact-Based

The U.K. scored near the median for overall policy, due to a relatively strong financial policy, although its weak initial lockdown hurt its score; the new strain is causing a huge uptick in cases, resulting in stricter lockdowns.

Pre-COVID Conditions

The U.K. has a low number of hospital beds, balanced out by a relatively low degree of inequality, and it scores slightly above the median in most other categories.

  • Debt/GDP ratio 86.8%
  • GDP/capita $48,169
  • Gini coefficient (out of 100) 34.8
  • Infant mortality rate (out of 1,000 live births) 4
  • Healthcare access score (out of 100) 84.6
  • Hospital beds/1,000 People 19.7

Government Response

Select a data point for more information
(Data points represent policy level as of Mar 15.)

Public Health Directives

The UK's public health score increased notably since January, with the government increasing restrictions on public gatherings and increasing emergency public healthcare spending in a push to contain COVID-19 variants.

  • Stay at home order 2
  • Public gathering restrictions 4
  • School closings 2
  • Public event cancellations 2
  • Testing policy 2
  • Emergency healthcare investments/capita $151.72
  • Travel restrictions 3
  • Tests/1,000 people 1538.2
  • Contact tracing 1

Financial Response

The UK’s financial response, while initiatially strong, has been waning since January, despite the uptick in cases.

  • Financial stimulus as share of GDP 3.4%
  • Income support 2
  • Debt forebearance 2

Fact-Based Communication

The British government both downplayed the risk of COVID-19, and has, in some instances, limited media access to information in response to COVID-19, resulting in its poor score.

  • Reliance on science/fact based information 1
  • Press freedom 1

COVID-19 Status as of Mar 15

The UK’s struggle to contain the virus has been further hampered by new variants, although its extensive lockdowns have helped, resulting in its very strong score.

  • Total deaths 5,836
  • Death rate per 100K 86
  • Total cases 4,276,840
  • Cases per 100K 145
  • Percent of positive tests 0.4
  • Change in positivity rates -10.4
Case Trend Line
Daily cases Level 1 Lockdown Level 2 Lockdown
Date Status New Cases/1M
1 May 13 Manufacturing and construction workers are encouraged to go back to work 48.61
2 Jun 01 Some schools, outdoor markets, and car showrooms reopen 21.27
3 Jun 08 Dentist 's offices reopen 16.12
4 Jun 15 All other non-essential retail reopens 15.19
5 Jul 04 Hospitality, personal care service industries, and public places reopen 9.21
6 Sep 24 Pubs, bars, restaurants and other hospitality venues must close by 10pm 97.87
7 Oct 12 Introduce a localized 3 tier system for restrictions, based on severity of situation 206.39
8 Nov 05 Country-wide lockdown 355.95
9 Jan 04 Imposed lockdown, shutting schools and ordering the public to stay at home, except for essential supplies or exercise, all schools will close; all restaurants, bars, and non-essential shops must close, except for takeaway food; alcohol sales are banned 867.97
10 Mar 08 Reopened schools and allowed recreation in outdoor public spaces. 71.05

Differentiating Factors

  • U.K. variant most deadly: A new peer-reviewed study has found that the B.1.1.7 variant is associated with a 64 percent higher risk of death than previously circulating variants. Combined with its high transmissibility, this makes the U.K. variant a significant global threat. Read More
  • One-third of population receives first dose: Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on March 8th that more than one-third of British residents have received their first vaccination dose. The government aims to offer the vaccine to all adults by the end of July 2021. Read More
  • Vaccines reduce hospitalizations and deaths: A preliminary study of the U.K. vaccination effort has found that a single dose of either the Pfizer or Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines reduced the risk of hospitalization among people over 70 years old by 80 percent, compared with those who had not been vaccinated. Read More
  • U.K. enters third lockdown: Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new national lockdown in early January, in an attempt to combat the rapid spread of a new, highly transmissible virus variant. Read More
  • British government accused of cronyism in pandemic response: A New York Times investigation found that Britain's COVID-19 response has led to waste, negligence, and corruption, as politically connected companies earned billions despite lack of medical experience. The paper found that around half the money spent on the pandemic response has gone to friends and associates of Conservative Party politicians. Read More
  • Lockdown measures reimposed, cases rise: As cases begin to rise in the U.K. once more, PM Johnson has issued a policy to close pubs and restaurants by 10 p.m. Public health experts have criticized the efficacy of Johnson's policy as demand has overwhelmed testing capacity, and private companies have been unable to respond to growing case numbers. Read More
  • Decentralized healthcare created confusion: The U.K. healthcare system is devolved, meaning that authorities in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are free to make their own decisions regardless of the directives emanating from Westminster. This has led to confusion and conflict between prominent politicians, particularly relating to economic re-opening and social distancing measures. Read More
Compared with Other Small Island Nations
  • 100
    New Zealand 2,432
    Per 1M

    New Zealand has had very strong policy, particularly with regard to its reliance on science and facts and its relatively strong financial response.

  • 93.7
    Iceland 6,083
    Per 1M

    Iceland has a very strong score, owing heavily to its reliance on facts as well as generous debt and income support; its large improvement since January was keyed by significant improvements in public health policy and financial support.

  • 73.3
    Taiwan 990
    Per 1M

    Taiwan has a relatively strong policy score, but its minimal stimulus and weak debt relief bring it down. However, the data does not accurately measure its advanced contact tracing, which may have diminished the need for more restrictions; this likely results in a score that underestimates Taiwan’s response.

Further Reading From Foreign Policy

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New Zealand

Statistics and government response factors available on each country profile include:

Pre-COVID Conditions:

  • Debt to GDP ratio
  • Infant mortality rates
  • Hospital beds per 1,000 people
  • Gini coefficients measuring inequality
  • Health access and quality

COVID-19 Public Health Directives:

  • Stay-at home orders
  • School-closing policy
  • Public-gathering restrictions
  • Cancellation of public events
  • Testing policy and rates per 1,000 people
  • Emergency healthcare spending per capita
  • Travel restrictions
  • Contact tracing

COVID-19 Financial Response:

  • Stimulus package as a share of GDP
  • Income support
  • Debt-forbearance

Public Communications:

  • Instances of misinformation by leadership
  • Limitations on press freedom, censorship

Current/Historic In-Country COVID-19 Status:

  • Death rates per 1 million
  • Case rates per 1 million