44.6 Overall Score (down 21.3 since Aug 1st.)

United Kingdom

  • 26.6 Public Health
  • 65.3 Financial
  • 68 Fact-Based
  • 26.6 Public Health
  • 65.3 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 Jan 1.)

Public Health Directives

The U.K. has a relatively weak public health policy score, performing poorly in practically every category.

  • Stay at home order 2
  • Public gathering restrictions 4
  • School closings 2
  • Public event cancellations 0
  • Testing policy 0
  • Emergency healthcare investments/capita $95.95
  • Travel restrictions 3
  • Tests/1,000 people 766.8
  • Contact tracing 2

Financial Response

The U.K.’s financial response has been relatively strong in terms of income support and debt relief, although its overall stimulus package has been relatively small, resulting in an overall score in the median.

  • Financial stimulus as share of GDP 9%
  • 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 Jan 1

The U.K.’s delayed lockdown and poor public health policy, coupled with the new strain of the virus, have resulted in a high rate of confirmed deaths and cases, resulting in its poor in-country status.

  • Total deaths 74,237
  • Death rate per 100K 1093.6
  • Total cases 2,549,689
  • Cases per 100K 37,558
  • Percent of positive tests 10.8
  • Change in positivity rates +8.1
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 45.41
2 Jun 01 Some schools, outdoor markets, and car showrooms reopen 21.74
3 Jun 08 Dentist 's offices reopen 16.36
4 Jun 15 All other non-essential retail reopens 15.01
5 Jul 04 Hospitality, personal care service industries, and public places reopen 5.53
6 Sep 24 Pubs, bars, restaurants and other hospitality venues must close by 10pm 73.24
7 Oct 12 Introduce a localized 3 tier system for restrictions, based on severity of situation 215.14
8 Nov 05 Country-wide lockdown 332.52

Differentiating Factors

  • 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
  • New coronavirus variant detected in southeast England: Although too early to tell whether the variation is significant, scientists are concerned that survivor antibodies are less effective against this new mutation. Read More
  • Grandmother receives world's first COVID-19 vaccination: Margaret Keenan, aged 91, received the first COVID-19 vaccination on December 8th as part of the U.K.'s rollout of doses to health and care staff, and people over 80. Celebrities Prue Leith and Sir Ian McKellan were also among the first to be vaccinated. 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
  • Johnson refuses to "cancel Christmas" despite case surge: Prime Minister Boris Johnson refused to impose restrictions on gatherings on Christmas day, despite a surge in cases that has placed London and much of the country under strict measures. Medical journals have predicted that British hospitals are likely to be filled at levels similar to the peak of the first wave in April 2020. 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
  • Temporary school re-opening creates natural test of spread: The U.K.'s month-long re-opening of schools in June has created a natural test for the spread of coronavirus among children and teachers and has given hope to those who want students to return to school in September. Throughout the month, only 70 cases were reported among students, and 128 among staff. Read More
Compared with Other Small Island Nations
  • 88.5
    New Zealand 2,162
    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.

  • 61.4
    Iceland 5,754
    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.

  • 79.1
    Taiwan 802
    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